The Buoyant Company: A Post-Mortem
The loss of privacy to Internet companies did not have to occur. It was never necessary to identify individuals or specific computers in order to target advertising or suggest links. Only twenty years ago, protests and objections erupted at the suggestion, at least when The Buoyant Company were in the room.
Simply sampling the direction of traffic would have supplied more than sufficient targeting. Perhaps in some alternative universe this happened and the science of marketing evolved to let a user toggle anonymity at will.
Of course, you’d have to be a major Internet services provider to have any view of the direction of traffic flows, but that is what The Buoyant Company worked with. We had established AT&T’s WorldNet as the largest Internet service provider within nine months. Optimizing the internal flow of network traffic was the task ahead.
There’s no excuse for the grandiosity of that ambition. The Buoyant Company wanted to build “the operating system for the global economy.” Still, our hubris would not rank among present-day monopolists.
Who can say, though, that The Buoyant Company and its anonymous approach to optimization would not have imperiled liberty, privacy, and democracy just as much as present-day operators? Diversion is still diversion; it now supplants the brain’s executive function on and off throughout the day. But what approach to networking does not sacrifice the security of the individual?
Mesh networks would stop the incursions of stalking advertisers and bugged clickbait, but they constitute a stone-age solution and cannot scale without compromising security and privacy.
Mesh Networking: The Advantage of Not Scaling
The term “networking” has an additional meaning in that face-to-face mesh of industrial operatives known as Venture Capital. Where full humans develop technology and businesses, it is necessary to pair each pre-selected winner with some charismatic psychopath disciplined to a narrow cunning and well-connected, to package an offering for their fellow monopolists in conventional finance. Networking is what they do. In this case, the limit of mesh networking – its diseconomy of scale – works in favor of the monopoly crowd, who have an obvious interest in remaining exclusive.