The more I think about "a future without Internet", the more it seems implausible even from a technical point of view

Should civilization collapse (and I don't think that's a likely scenario yet) distributed networking in a form will still remain, albeit in a primitive form. The knowledge on connectivity is widespread enough with offline sources I.E. books, pamphlets etc... that reconnecting can still happen

I expect "An Internet" to spring up within a few years of a potential collapse

A prediction:

Should society collapse, for some arbitrary definition of "collapse", as long as someone somewhere knows how electricity works, how a radio works, how transistors work, a total rebuild from square one to a 70s era "Internet" will take less than 10 years

Centuries ago, scholars copied manuscripts by hand (hence "manu-" prefix). Even if there are only a handful of nodes, hard-copies of civilization-critical texts can be typed out and shared BBS-style

@cypnk I feel like it's in the same problem as those scenarios that right-wing preppers love, wherein it's a literal collapse of society with everyone against each other.

If you work with that assumption, then you're not gonna have any computer networks... On the other hand, if people band together and build up some (reduced) form of infrastructure, then scraping together enough computers for a network is more likely.

@cypnk @Dee I'm increasingly seeing that upper class white dude's idea of apocalypse is just reality for like, a black homeless person or a newly freed slave or a victim of human trafficking or a Guatemalan fleeing the country and becoming a refugee or rural Central Africa.

News flash, assholes exist but also we gotta stick together to survive.

@wilbr @Dee Even for those folks, it鈥檚 possible to get them connected to each other with extremely cheap air-dropped mesh nodes which can quickly link up to others

Technology is proliferated enough that total collapse isn鈥檛 possible short of a gigantic solar flare. Even then, only the power grid will be deeply affected

@cypnk As long as we stick with dialup next time. Broadband was a mistake, IMO.

@cypnk In ham radio there's this annual event called Field Day where people practice setting up radio communication in an emergency:

It'd be cool if there were something similar for practicing setting up emergency internet connectivity -- a WNDW field day.

@cypnk at first i didn't want to read it because of the religious stuff, but it's an interesting concept that in a world where knowledge about the civilization is hated, a handful of monks hoard scientific books they find 馃榿

@adalbertsen From even that description, it makes sense

Knowledge of ancient Greece wouldn't have survived if it weren't for Islamic scholars. Astronomy and botany exists today thanks to Catholic scholars

In fact, there's a list of clergy scientists

I like to think knowledge survives despite religion and not because of it. But some of the same skills necessary for literary and archival analysis are what's needed to preserve scientific knowledge

not sure if collapse of society 


or just collapse of stonks market

Should society collapse : I'd hope we'd rebuild things better... but I have my doubts.

@mark Having examples of what happens when things are done the wrong way is also good to ensure more people find alternatives

:) True.
I have faith enough in humanity's abilities, but I also know that self-interest and personal gain are hard wired.

And what if we know how radio and Internet work after a collapse but we are just incapable to build one of these things because today people already extracted and burnt all easily-extractable ressources needed to build these things?

@roipoussiere This is something addressed by Isaac Arthur in Cyclical Apocalypses. In summary, there are always resources to rebuild these because we ourselves have created vast mounds of previously used tech to scavenge from. It would take hundreds of cycles of building and collapse to run out

To prevent this delay, we'd need a hierarchical self manufacturing tech stack.

Devices which can not only make copies of themselves (with human intervention, mind you), but which can create more advanced devices in the next level of the hierarchy - until we arrive to portable, wireless computers and tablets.

For starters (self replication aside), we need a device that can eat raw materials and spew out resistors, capacitors and coils.

Then we'd need a device able to create transistors and diodes given a source of silicon.

Oh, and a battery maker, of course.


@cypnk Though interestingly, I can't see software development in that case taking too much of a different path from our own history. We'd still need to start out with punch cards & build up to computer graphics.

Though I'd hope we'd have simpler hardware to build atop of!

@alcinnz I think so too because, for better or worse, certain processes and choices tend to self-select toward what works for that circumstance. Even though those circumstances change over the years while the systems that were developed remain longer than that

This is another reason why certain older systems seem inappropriate in modern contexts. They've developed over time to fulfill different needs in a different world

@carcinopithecus What would computing look like if we had to go back to vacuum tubes?

@cypnk I like to joke that I generally don't know what will happen after WWIII (or any other civilization collapse event), but what I do know is that the IRCnet will survive.

In all seriousness though, the Internet is, at its core, still a decentralized system. Nothing about the core technologies behind it require any single authority, so it's extremely likely that it will, at least partially, survive almost any collapse event that doesn't completely destroy our ability to generate power.


I don't have the skill, but it would be wise to build a collection of books that cover such fundamental skill set.

While I'm a decent programmer and I know a bit or two about networking protocols, I don't know anything about electronics.

But I would be happy to have in my own library this sort of civilization backup.

@Shamar This is a good thing to do even in case there's no risk of collapse. The best networks can have failure modes that are hard to diagnose and fix. In such circumstances, offline (and off power) systems of data like books would be extremely useful


Unfortunately, I'd have no idea where to start.

@Shamar I would start with simple things that interest me first. Everyone has their own interests so hopefully a group of people doing the same thing will ensure there's a wide enough selection

In my case, I started with books on cabin building and simple living. Construction and shelter will be pretty important after a collapse

@Shamar @cypnk

There was a pretty cool project trying to recreate as much of society as they could without pre-existing infrastructure. I recall they managed to build a tractor and a brick-making machine.

@cypnk In a societal collapse, where food, shelter and security are compromised, you think time and effort will be made on an internet service? Makes a LOT of assumptions that the basic needs are met and do not require all of our attention. Sounds more like "moderate societal setback" than civilization collapse.

@gedvondur I think you may benefit from another read of what I actually wrote. You're making a lot of assumptions


Alternative view: The internet is like the US interstate highway system -- it's a fragile network maintained by the government and large commercial entities because it serves their interests.

Unfortunately this network is so fast that we depend on it for *everything*. Everyone has a freeway ramp that goes directly into their driveway, so it's the only way we can even imagine networking.

I want to highlight an alternative: footpaths, sidewalks, side streets, and human-scale networks.


I want to live in a world where "what if the internet goes down" is like "what if the freeway is closed". We should still be able to network with our families, neighbors, and communities, and I think it's a mistake to depend on the Internet for those things.

Working on SSB has been really eye-opening to see how much we can do with software that's DIY / P2P / E2E / friend2friend, and I'm really optimistic that we can build and organize small friendly networks that never truly go down. 鉂

@christianbundy @cypnk I hadn't heard of SSB before.
Really cool idea.
Is this something practical to operate now (for not super tech-savvy users)?

@reay @cypnk Yeah! Here's the most user-friendly interface, it's kinda glitchy and no perfect but it should get you started:

If you want to try it out, here's an invite you can use once you install Patchwork:

@christianbundy The footpath analogy is actually exactly what I'm thinking a future internet would be (at least at first) should this scenario come to pass. In that way, this is closer to ARPANET than something that can support Netflix


Yes! And I think there's lots of utility in building footpath-style networks today. They empower communities to be be resilient + autonomous and empower people to get closer with the people that they care about.

@christianbundy @cypnk Reminds me of this:

> No reasonable human needs more than 10,000 other humans to read their words within twenty minutes of writing them.

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