One from many

Mapping the Internet

BBC's Digital Revolution Team are making a series on the Web (a.k.a Internet) and they were asking about mapping the Internet. I had to say something, here is why I think it is a good idea.

From the comment on Digital Revolution blog

Mapping the web and depicting it is a conceptual argument as we have yet any monitoring system in place that monitors and maps all nodes of the whole. It would be very interesting to have one but we do not as of yet. One day I think we will have. But for now it is a mystery and has its own mysteries such as dark IPs and blackholes (although that are not that mysterious).

This is probably about how the web could affect us in the future and it is not focused on the benefit but on some potentially important factors that I did not seem to read much about, some yes, often? No.

I personally think we need exactly that, a realtime “map” of the Internet. Something that monitors as many nodes as possible (if not all) in order to trend what is happening on the Net in near realtime. This would be greatly beneficial to security seeing patterns change in machines’ functional footprints, e.g. CPU usage, number of processes and hours they have run, etc. This could be extremely useful in coming years in assisting us to detect and see any changes if a technological singularity were to emerge. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that should a technological singularity indeed emerge, like other evolutionary process it may go through some initial emerging phases where all of a sudden some machines in some part or part/s of the world all suddenly and seemingly inexplicably light up and CPUs all simultaneously go through the roof for some period. Seeing this would be perhaps give us advance knowledge of the possible emergence of a technological singularity.

Although the Internet is looked upon with awe and wonder, we tend to forget it is making us totally reliant on a single point of failure, the very Internet itself. Our modern, developed societies are so dependent of the Internet today that any major disruption could be catastrophic to normal social function.

Although we technologically advance at a hurtling rate, we have been here before, we can never foresee the longer term effects of our own creations. They bring much social benefit but they can also bring very unseen turns of events as well.

I must openly admit, having trained in environmental science and ecology and converting to systems administration and infrastructure management 13 years ago, I see all of this we are discussing here as an evolutionary event unlike any we have experienced before, it is always so with evolutionary events.

And not too far in the future we are a faced with a possible event that may change our societies, lifestyles and experiences forever. However we await and discuss that event with much positivity and intrigue. I find it a little worrying that we do not seem to thinking about the possibilities that could occur. Is it not possible that the advent of a singularity could literally break everything we do in technology, whether the emergence worked or failed? Is it at all possible it might just break everything, fry circuits, swamp networks with traffic? And if it works, what then? That is very hard for us to say, as we have no understanding of how any other organism on this planet perceives the universe around them. Why should it be different in the case of a technological singularity? What will it value? What will it aspire to? Will it consider us? Perhaps at the beginning, if it did emerge, it might be “primitive” and not understand our purposes and maybe it will just stop doing then. It would not have to stop for long to cause huge disruption and then what?

I stand in awe of the world around me and our ever increasing accomplishments, innovation and constant discovery and creation. However, just because it is so now, it may be different down the line. This is not doom-mongering, just thinking about what could happen. I personally love to hear and read Ray Kurzweil and Dr Aubrey de Grey, I believe that all they propose is probably possible along a non-disruption timeline. However, these things fascinating as, they are seem only to have the other side of the coin examined by science-ficition and conspiracy theorists and people generally considered nutters and doommongers.

However, the unthinkable is possible and when you think in evolutionary terms, everything does not necessarily always have to turn out rosy. The evolutionary process does not necessarily operate on right or wrong or good and bad, but on function. Sometimes it does not work or it does but that in itself can cause disruption.

We do this because we have to, it is not possible for us to necessarily know why at this moment, and we will continue to develop, innovate and create in this “space”. Perhaps we should be watching our creation a little more closely and watching for changes.

Last week I mentioned the Internet's single point of failure as being electricity. I guess this week I thought I would point out what is potentially modern society's greatest threat. In my humble opinion, it is quite possibly the Internet itself. I can see the likeihood of our social systems failing before the machines start to shoot us down. They may not have to.

And if we come through a catacalysmic, social change such as that, we will have a lot less machines as the power fails, diesel generators run dry, bank ATMs stop working, water supplies fail and the entire version 1 of the technological singularity becomes the most powerful disruption in modern history, affecting billions of people.

Yet you have to sit back and wonder at the grandeur and complexness of it all... mapping the Internet... not yet, but we should.

@A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT - if I may be so bold as to suggest that I think you left a key constituent off your diagram of consciousness. It may be covered in one of the "c"s but it is such an important component of our consciousness, that I believe it rates its own mention. Logic. It does not begin with a "c" but that makes it stand out and it does stand out, so perhaps that is fitting.

internet mapping

I think that this project consists of frequent path probes, one to each registered Internet entity. From this, trees are built mapping the paths to most of the networks on the Internet.