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Re: Imminent Death of the Internet, GIF at 11

At 10:40 AM 9/7/96 -0700, Martin Minow <[email protected]> wrote:

>For several months (years?) Bob Metcalf has been predicting that
>the Internet will self-destruct from overload. His argument
>appears to follow one of Gordon Bell's maxims: "anyone can predict
>the future: all you need is semi-log paper and a ruler." As I
>understand it, Metcalf's argument is that network load (messages,
>packets) is growing exponentially, while network bandwidth (fiber
>capacity, switch performance) is growing linearly. At some point,
>these two curves cross -- and demand will exceed capacity.

 I would add one word into that Gordon Bell's maxim: "anyone can predict
the SHORT-TERM future: all you need is semi-log paper and a ruler."

 Rulers are liner-extrapolation predictors; the only predictions with
still lower intelligence are pointers - with the assumption that things
are going to always remain the same. Unfortunately, these two kinds of
prediction methods populate most of the human "visionary" landscape,
with rare flowers of visionary minds elevating above it - Metcalf's
doesn't seem to be one of them.  This very observation on the
population/food dilemma was made by Malthus quite a while ago.
However, both population and food are still here, and natural resources
are no longer a serious limiting factor for the production of food.

  If you notice that your attempt to extend your ruler farther than
it can go, will not work, it's a good prediction of a breakdown -
*of the ruler*, not the system you are trying to measure.  The role
of a visionary is not to mistake the horizon of current trends for the
horizon of the world, but look ahead and predict future trends - and
advise what should be done to adapt to the imminent transitions.

  An important observation for the net traffic/bandwidth "crisis" is
that human ability to perceive textual and visual information remains
pretty much the same.  Addition of graphics, video and sound to the Net,
as well as the growing number of users, increase the bandwidth, but
this all has (though still distant) saturation point - say, 24 hour-a-day
single-channel video feed to every human and his dog. (Inter-machine
communications do not have this limit though).

  Already, most of the newsfeed coming to any single server, is never
read by anybody; this is also the fate of most messages from 60 or so
mailing lists coming to my PC.  A solution here, that will be also
quite instrumental for many future problems, is not to send messages
that are not going to be read - i.e., server-side filtering agents;
I have been suggesting collaborative message filtering (see proposal
on my home page) for more than 5 years now - only to find people who
could help implement it, uselessly running around the Net whining
and waving their stiff rulers.

Of course, there are also other methods of making Net traffic more
intelligent and robust; if Internet was recognized as the most
revolutionary development in the evolution of the global ecology of
intelligence, and if there existed some mechanism for turning truly
visionary ideas on the Net's evolution into changes in its structure,
then, well, things would be much better.


Alexander Chislenko <<[email protected]>     www.lucifer.com/~sasha/home.html

Firefly Network, Inc.: <<[email protected]>  www.ffly.com