OpenBSD version: Not relevant here... Arch: ? NSFP: Well...
Our world is changing and—by our own hands—not necessarily for the better. One might have gotten the idea from the title already (burning world), but the outlook on our future we take in this series is not really concerned with best cases. We ask ourselves how a world will look in which we increased CO2 in the athmosphere to 685 ppm by 2050, sending our world to a cooking 6 degrees celsius more on average by the end of the century. A world where billions are displaced by heat and floods, and where the global north learns that climate change will ravage us all, no matter where we live or in which delusion of exceptionalism we currently cradle ourselves. A world where there is no ‘global supplychain’ to collapse anymore, and most long range fibres just go… dark.
Yes, we know that this is hard to imagine. But it is far to close to experts’ predictions for comfort. Luckily, by now at least some people have started to think about such a world in a serious way; One of them is solene, an OpenBSD developper, whose blog post was fundamentally inspirational for this proposition, and i suggest you go along and read her article before continuing to read here.
So, following the question of what we do when the hypergiants fail, we also have to ask ourselves what we could do when even more significant parts of the Internet fail in the shifts to come. We claim that:
“Communities caring for local and distributed infrastructure are the future in a world falling apart.”
The question here is, of course, how dire our future will be. In a ravaged and war-torn mad-max future there will be limited space for things to be… well, peaceful enough for technologoy to be there. Hence, instead, we are following the world solene scetched out, in which “[…] we would still have *some* power available […]”.
That world is pretty much aligned with a rather solar-punk’y future, one where there is some power available, but not as abundant as now. Where we are concious about what we use energy for, and how we can continue living in and with our world.
Naturally, despite having burned down, our world would still remain littered with (disfunctional) computers and network technologoy all around us. As she says, that world would most likely be a world where local communities commandeer these sets of technology and start to (re)build (potentially interconnected) networks (of networks). However, the focus there would always be providing primary and useful services for local communities. Having local access to a knowledge database will be more important than, say, global communication.
With supplychains gone, keeping systems and networks running will also become a difficult task in terms of getting spare parts and replacements. This world will be about engineers finding ways; For the benefit of their–again–local community.
This perspective on critical IT infrastructure contradicts the further evolution of the platform economy and centralization of the current Internet. In our digitizing world we find ‘the cloud’ and ‘the Internet’ progressing into more and more things (It is called the Internet of Things for a reason, hm?). As we discussed before, many of these tools do not react too well to their cloud controllers and management platforms being… well, gone. Hence, we also project that the task of ‘making it run even though the cloud controller is gone’ will be an essential occupation in a potential future. Local communities will (have to) find ways to utilize technology and provide working services. To survive.