We greatly value our freedom, and so we should. But the freedom that we enjoy should not be taken for granted – being able to speak, view and create the things that we want when we want. But there are many threats to the future of our freedom and technology plays a very big role in promoting it, along with democracy, capitalism and many of the other pillars of a free society.
In Harry Potter, there are 3 unforgivable curses, Killing Curse (Avada Kedavra) to kill, Cruciatus Curse(Crucio) to inflict cruciating pain, and Imperius Curse (Imperio) to enable mind control over their victims; and this same concept can be applied to the digital world.
If there are 3 similar unforgivable curses in the digital world that will allow us to become victims in the real world, they would be the following:
Collection, analysis and sharing of our information without our consent.
Controlling the information that we can receive and disseminate.
Controlling the types of information and content that reaches us are often with the inclusion of false information that can cause us to change our behaviour in ways that we won’t even realise.
These 3 digital sins can greatly influence everything that we know; how it can impact the democracy of the world, change our social behaviours and viewpoints towards various matters. It is especially important in the wake of recent events; Equifax hack, Facebook Scandal, Singhealth Hack, AXA data breach and so much more… It is absolutely critical that we get the digital world right, as it is how all of us communicate, congregate and live our lives now. The internet itself is inseparable from most human life-form. Hence, with the right software, we can combat many things; limit mass surveillance, combat censorship, prevent and protect ourselves from data manipulation.
So what is a possible solution to the 3 unforgivable sins? There’s a concept of Decentralise Applications that are slowly but surely coming into fruition. And what exactly are Decentralised Applications?
- You own your data. It is stored with you, backed up on your own private personal cloud, encrypted with keys on your device and encrypted between devices.
- There is NO central operator. It is a decentralised network similar to BitTorrent, bitcoin — no one operates it, hence there is no one door to knock on, unlike Google or Facebook.
- There is a choice between the different versions of your software. Just like email, you can choose between the types of your software, Gmail/Outlook/Yahoo. And with Bitcoin, you can choose from various bitcoin wallets, and BitTorrent – you choose which the clients you download your files from.
With centralised applications, think Facebook/Instagram, when you open up these apps, you are connected to the data centres of these companies, every single action that you take is being tracked and hosted by their MASSIVE server farms that stores the data for BILLIONS of people. If you share a photo and I view that photo, you have simply uploaded a content onto the data centre and I pulled that content out from the location to view it, and millions of people do this daily. This is a good model for control and profits, but such a model can become very problematic as everything is stored in such centralised servers. People who can gain access to such data-farms can also view your data and have the ability to manipulate its information.
Let’s talk about a new model which is the decentralised model, the Decentralised Applications is very different. Instead, each of our data is stored in our own private, personal clouds. If you have a photo and you want to share it with me, I’ll have to grab it from your personal cloud, and the same thing in reverse, and it happens with everyone who is involved in the entire system.
This trend of decentralisation is the next wave of the internet, Internet 3.0. There was the early internet, internet 2.0 which moved to the cloud, and internet 3.0 which is marked by decentralisation.
Here are some of the decentralised applications that exist today that you are able to use — although everything is still in its early stages, trends will tilt towards a decentralised model as we continue to see the people who hold power screw us over and over.
This is an application for collaborative document editing. Think google suite/docs/sheets BUT in a way that is decentralised, that means we can collaborate on a document or spreadsheet and there isn’t a Google that is coordinating these edits. We are directly collaborating on these documents directly between our computers.
Signal, as a precursor, is a very important app for private chat, potentially the most secure that exists today. One of the challenges for Signal is that it is being censored in most parts of the world. And there are many people who do not have access to that app, that have been using tools that Amazon and Google are providing to circumvent this but even now they are hitting roadblocks that are hard for them to overcome. One of the challenges with Signal is that it is still produced and distributed by a single company, there is only 1 version of the application, if Signal were a decentralised application, and any developer could publish a version of Signal on a decentralise chat communication network and it would be a lot easier to distribute the app to people who need to be able to access it.
BUT! There is actually a decentralise chat application that you can use today and its called Stealthy. This is very important because the software is open sourced, you can download it and we communicate directly between our devices, between our personal clouds!
One that is very important for democracy. We saw how important social media is for communication and promoting the ability for freedom fighters to be able to congregate and influence their nations for the greater good. Of course, there are some dark sides to social media but we need to focus on the ways that we can improve and move it forward. And some of the ways that we can move beyond the existing model of social media is to move to a model where we have decentralised social media.
If we are able to decentralise social media, that means we can have a choice over our own software, we can evade censorship, we can have data sharing on our own terms, we can have increased privacy. And when there are challenges to fake news or when our feeds are being influenced by advertisements that we don’t like, we can always switch to a different version of the software on the same network.
We can see how this decentralisation of the network and the competition of software between developers is critical to enable us to move forward and have a digital world that truly supports truth, privacy, safety and freedom. These types of apps mark the future and a way forward for us to live in a much more free world.