The Living Net

Udit Vira argues that imagining the internet as a long-lasting natural system is an opportunity to overcome our bias for short-term thinking.

The internet is oxygen to our society. From transportation and communication to food and energy, government and business, to art and entertainment, it is foundational to our contemporary lives. As the internet becomes essential to our very nature, are we capable of assuming the responsibility for its continued survival? How do we navigate the incomprehensible system of interdependencies when they only surface as tense trade-offs between economics and ecology; efficiency and equity; cooperation and innovation? If we are to become fully reliant on the internet, can relating it to a living being clarify the moral choices we have to make? To put it simply, can envisioning what a healthy living internet looks like enable us to reconsider the social, technological, and environmental conditions that help it – and us – flourish?

The accompanying eco-speculation is an excerpt from a fictional field-guide on how to grow and care for the Living Internet. It’s a clipping from a leafy-green future where genetic, digital, and nano-technologies have converged, empowering ordinary people to grow digital networks with the same ease as that of growing plants. In this scenario, below the cities, oceans, and forest floors, genetically-engineered plants have merged their roots into a universal network. The network absorbs materials and nutrients from land, water, and air to grow new information pathways, powers itself from ambient solar radiation, and restructures itself to accommodate the shifting needs of its residents.

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