Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More on Fabricators, and Other Questions Answered.

Sorry Aussies...I don't like it either.
         I've gotten some good comments on Monday's post about fabricators and the re-ordering of society in the mid- to late- twenty-first century.  I'd like to address two of then today: The fate of Australia, and the possibilities of using open-source infrastructure in the future.

        First, Australia... I'm sorry to say that it doesn't look good.  When I was a Biology student, the environmental impact of severe drought, over population and the damage done to the Murray-Darling River Basin because of this lead me to assume that the smallest continent's days are numbered.  The simple fact is that Australia's carrying capacity is roughly ten million people, while the current population is over twice that.  When the effects of Peak Oil make using industrial agriculture impossible, the is little hope for the land down under.  There will be enough refugees leaving Australia's shores for New Zealand that there will most likely be a war.  Ironically, The nuclear phase of the Great War caused enough of a climate shift that Australia is more inhabitable in 2210 than it will be in 2110.  So in the short term, Australia's doomed, but in the end it will be a decent place to live.  Minus, of course, the Marsupials.

Emergency servers?

        Anyway, onto the idea of open-source infrastructure, which I take to be Internet by the people, for the people and all that jazz.  Power creation, water storage and filtration, and food production will have to, at least in the short-term, be decentralized and sustainable to the greatest extent possible.  Those fringe folks that are building solar panels, gardening their yards, and storing staples and whatnot are most likely going to become the mainstream of society in the coming decades as food transportation, power plants, and the other trappings of civilization become less available.  Let's face it, all of it runs on oil, and oil is running out.

          That being said, keeping the Internet going in the face of societal breakdown will be a higher priority than most people assume.  Look at the current demographics; one seventh of the worlds population is literally starving to death, half the population are in grinding poverty, yet eighty percent of all the people on Earth have cell phones.

          So yeah, I think we'll fight for the Internet.

          Most of you already know that I'm a big fan of open-source.  Everything here at Blue Max Studios, from my computer's operating system to the programs I create all of my products with, is free and open-source.  There are a lot of us out there, and we believe in open-source.  So if (or when) the global economy collapses and corporate controlled programs become unavailable and all of that stuff, people will make due.  It's staggering to think how much our current society depends on communication and computers.  We are going to protect it, and we are going to make our own if we have to.  Fabricators will factor into this, as there exist today circuit printers as part of the Fab Labs set up around the world.  If I had to guess (way outside my pay grade) as to what an open-source infrastructure will take, I would assume that hacking into the existing communication satellites and creating a secondary, free Internet using the remains of our current system will allow people to maintain contact even if the whole world gets dropped into the kacky.  My only experience with any of this come from my Army days in the late Nineties when I was trained to set up and maintain multi-channel communications nets in combat theaters from the back of a RAU.  So it can be done...
My old ride...the Army's Remote Access Unit.

         But I dunno.  Those of you RocketFans that are more knowledgeable about what it would take for people to maintain and continue the Internet in the absence of the major telecommunications are welcomed to comment, and we'll all get together and figure it out.  So, the Official Question of the Day:  Assuming the loss of Internet because of economic and societal collapse due to the lack of oil, how could we as individual citizens get the World Wide Web up and running again?



  1. Ray, I've said it once and I'll say it again: glacier covered Europe, Antarctica, the Gobi Desert and ecologically wrecked Australia are small challenges compared to building and inhabiting a orbital habitat, a IPV, an asteroid, the Moon or Mars (maybe even under the sea). And the same technologies that make those places inhabitable and economically feasible would allow people to settle Mars, make it even cheaper to live, work and exploit those regions. A Conestoga variant could be used pretty easily in all of the above to good effect, especially with a slew of robots.

  2. One option would be to store cached backups of some of the more essential sites in multiple locations (possibly off-world, too). I'm talking about things like Wikipedia primarily, as the information contained on that site alone might speed up the recovery process.

    A more dramatic version would be to build a large, virtually indestructible vault somewhere containing an immense server farm and an appropriately potent power supply, and back up the entire internet on it, for access later when it'll be needed to start the rebuilding process, but this solution seems more like a project initiated by a large and powerful government than a grassroots open-source solution.

  3. @Strannik:

    I totally agree; the trick is that I don't see governments taking the necessary steps to forestall disaster. Research suggests that it would take the kind of money and effort it took to gear up for WWII to combat the environmental and economic problems we face today. I think that Australia could easily be made decently habitable through the use of de-salination, solar power, aquaponics and other extreme measures. The main issues are cultural; It's hard to imagine Australians (or Americans for that matter) changing their living habits fast enough, or on a wide enough scale to make a difference before the crap hits the fan. In America, we have enough natural resources to limp along for a few years while resentment in the population boils over into activism. Australia, I think, will not have that much time, as the ecosystem hovers much closer to the razor's edge.

    Anyway, let's hope I'm wrong!

  4. @Mangaka2170:

    Those could work. If you want to go more grassroots, this is how I’d do it:

    We already have peer-to-peer file sharing (BitTorrent). And we have RAID (hard disk data redundancy). I wouldn’t be surprised if there was already an open-source program combining the two ideas. So, you want Wikipedia to survive? Dedicate ten gigs of harddrive space to it, and be online some of the time. Whenever your computer is online, it automatically queries everyone else with some of Wikipedia, and shares data to ensure maximal redundancy. Given time and destruction of computers, a little of the data will inevitably be lost, but a distributed system like this is extremely resilient. So long as computers can talk to each other, even some of the time, it’s self correcting.

    (It looks like Wikipedia is tending towards peaking out at a bit over 4 million articles. Wikipedia’s cut off for splitting an article is 40 KB of plain text. So, discounting images, Wikipedia’s total size will be around 160 TB, max. Good modern hard drives are 1 TB and up. In the near future, a single club in a small college could ensure the survival of Wikipedia by themselves… at least the text portions. That said, my math is more than a little suspect).

    During the recent Egyptian Revolution, Mubarak cut Egypt’s entire internet access. I vaguely remember people using cell phone texting to keep in touch.

    Ham radio + modem = slow internet. If you need range and have some power, bounce your signals off of the moon, or something else in orbit.

    Working cell phone + modem = slow internet.

    The internet can get smashed back to the (figurative) stone age, but I’m not sure it’s possible to kill it anymore, without killing humanity as a whole.

  5. What about ham radio? And libraries. If the system need to go to a low power reboot because we've lost peek oil, then we are down to stone knives and bearskins. We are not going to be able to lay cable to link server centers, we are going to need man portable radio packs,caches of books, and not the "e-" kind either.

    We will need manual skills and crafts people to hold onto the essentials. You could set up a radio network so that areas could maintain communication with on another, maybe even have a way to network servers over radio. A real "wi-fi" network.

    If we can keep the cellular back bone running, that would be even better. The essential problem is our society is so dependent on our tech level working, when it fails, it literally can be catastrophic.

    Consider our infrastructure. Something as simple as sewage treament plants, which run on electricity to pump our refuse through their filtration system. With no power, or rationing, these systems will either fail, or we'll be reduced to third world capacity.

    All of this goes to my general opinion that the day an individual can not only control their power supply (Wind,Solar,Biofuel) but also maintain their own infrastructure (Sewage treatment, Food production, Water and irrigation, Material Production, Personal Security) so that they can literaly become independent of any central authority, is the day that we really become free and civilized. The systems that allow that process to occur, will be the prototypes for the systems that allow us to set up colonies off world.


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