Do you remember when comedian Louis CK mocked younger generations for being spoiled by the abundance of great technology?
Everything is amazing right now and nobody’s happy. Like, in my lifetime the changes in the world have been incredible… Flying is the worst because people come back from flights and they tell you…a horror story…They’re like: “It was the worst day of my life. First of all, we didn’t board for twenty minutes, and then we get on the plane and they made us sit there on the runway…”
Oh really, what happened next? Did you fly through the air incredibly, like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight you non-contributing zero?! You’re flying! It’s amazing! Everybody on every plane should just constantly be going: “Oh my God! Wow!” You’re flying! You’re sitting in a chair, in the sky!
I was on an airplane and there was Internet. That’s the newest thing that I know exists. And I’m sitting on the plane, and I’m watching YouTube clips. It’s amazing. And then it breaks down and they apologize. The guy next to me goes “pua! this is bull****!” Like how quickly the world owes him something he knew existed only 10 seconds ago? Now we live in an amazing, amazing world and it’s wasted on the crappiest generation of just spoiled idiots that don’t care.
This was about nine years ago, just around the moment when the genesis block of the Bitcoin blockchain had seen the light of day. The tech’s adolescence is over and the narrative has completely changed ever since. There are no generation gaps worth mentioning, no claustrophobic attitudes towards personal computing even among elders. Everybody’s finally online. Seniors and hipsters only differ by what software they choose. And, as a matter of fact, today Louis CK is wrong twice and the world does owe us something.
“Internet access” has turned into the “freedom to connect” and has gained the status of a ‘basic need’. The problem is that each essential human need must have a public version and this one doesn’t.
The issue of public versions may be a murky business. Consider fresh water accessibility. On one hand, as human society develops, fresh water has become almost guaranteed. There are the governments, ‘nonprofit’ organizations, and private corporations whose efforts still target the issue in more problematic parts of the world, and not for free, by the way.
On the other hand, as far as the ‘golden billion’ of the global population is concerned, the problem has taken the shape of the bottled water marketing pressure which many experts consider as a biggest scam in history (hint: we might not need it and most of it is from a faucet anyway).
Similarly, living in Europe, we never hear that someone is “thirsty” and cannot get onto the Internet. On the contrary, we see 3G turning into 4G and other seemingly positive endeavours. Ok, fine. That’s a ‘bottled water’ version and we buy it, in both senses. But where’s a moderately safe ‘faucet water’ version?
Where is the internet access of the commons? I don’t expect it to be the quality that comes from a $20 crystal bottle, but I do want it to be fairly good and reliable. It doesn’t have to be completely free, but it has to be common, not branded and controlled by ‘Aquafreshes’ and ‘Perriers’. This is not any sort of an end-user inspired ‘demand’, the one you could read about in economy and marketing textbooks. This is a matter of principle.
Fragility of Being Technology’s Pets
If you think I exaggerate or even invent the problem, here is a non-pathetic presentation for you. The following actually happened to me a few weeks ago. I arrived in a foreign city and my data roaming was off for some reason. I needed the money in my account to accept the calls I expected, so I decided not to call the GSM operator at once and bought a SIM card at a grocery store. Note: it wasn’t in the airport. It was a random mall, so that SIM card package wasn’t targeted to tourists.
The country I arrived in happened to be obsessed with anti-terrorism, so I couldn’t get to use the SIM card until I arrived at my hotel, registered online with the operator and, the next morning (!), video-chatted with a government-authorized person to prove my identity.
When I finally succeeded in gaining the mobile Internet and drove off to the meeting, it was only to find out that 1MB of data was something around half a Euro and my new ten-Euro prepaid SIM had taken me about ten miles away with Google Maps navigation.
So, I needed to get online again (my mobile internet access is down by now, remember?) and buy a normally priced “data package” for another twenty Euro (PayPal is the only payment option, but that’s another sad story). I cursed the provider, threw the SIM away with thorough enjoyment, downloaded the map of the whole country into my mobile Google Maps, and online-detoxed myself from hotel to hotel, without GSM-based Internet access.
Moral of the Story
Of course, you might say, in that story, that was largely my fault and I should have read about the data plans beforehand or avoided the problem with my local provider in the first place. However, the advancement of technology not only gives us something, it deducts too. With technology, we naturally become less responsible. That’s normal and harmonizes with earned sentimentality. That’s what technology is for — to feel more relaxed.
When no GPS navigation was available, I was not quite happy to deal with paper maps, but I was never disappointed with anything since I had only myself to blame. Today, if I encounter any roaming, connectivity, geo-positioning, identification, map update, or any other problem, I feel completely mad. Mad! I blame every employee in every involved company and I blame myself too, for not having a normal map in my car any longer.
Hotspots of the World, Unite!
The “freedom to connect” is indeed the correct title for a fifteen-year-old movement. There were multiple attempts to break free at the fundamental infrastructure level. For over a decade, few wealthy corporations keep reporting on their plans to cover the planet with stratospheric balloons, nanosatellites, etc.
However, the traffic sent is still zero. Several less resourceful enterprises have tried to do the job through mesh networking, when a signal propagates across a dense community of user devices. That did not fly either, albeit it was a timely invention when governments try to disintegrate protestors by cutting off ISPs.
Apparently, WiFi hotspots on top of regular landlines is the only feasible technical solution for now. So why hasn’t FON or Boingo or any other provider like that gone global? Taking a wild guess, I get the feeling that building a controlled and compliant corporate network is presumably too expensive and simply doesn’t pay back in the current competitive landscape. To fix that, one needs to abolish a substantive fragment of fixed costs spreadsheet.
The blockchain technology can help us do just that! It can help build a community of hotspots that would belong to no one. That fact alone can boost the coverage — people think twice before partnering with someone in particular but they easily join the crowd.
Another important advantage of a decentralized approach is that it helps to avoid the critical mass [threshold] problem. A network can grow organically. Since it does not have any critical minimum traffic to compensate the fixed costs, it may allow itself to add users at any tempo, without risking its future. Be it twelve hotspots or twelve million, technologically there’s no difference. Of course, one must have taken the native token to at least one of the popular exchanges, but that mission looks pleasant and interesting.
Please, greet IUNGO, the token-governed swarm of Wi-Fi hotspots. IUNGO is a public crypto economy that delivers ubiquitous internet access to its participants through the token-governed community of Wi-Fi hotspots. We build not a vertically integrated solution, but a smart middleware.
Unlike most of the crypto projects that have emerged lately, IUNGO is a natural fit for what the blockchain technology got in its chest. The system will be ‘politically’ decentralized since there is no point of central governance or single manufacturer dependance.
It will also be architecturally decentralized because a single IUNGO-connected router technically represents a complete and healthy cluster of the community. It is not “logically” decentralized, though. It can’t be cloned and for a sound purpose — otherwise, segments of the community could be overtaken by unfair competition.
I would be very glad to hear your comments and questions.