Me In The Middle
Greg Wyler - Images and
Greg Wyler - Images and

New constellation of Satellites to bring Internet to all

A Big Think

Mood:  Thoughtful

In 1956 Isaac Asimov wrote the short story "The Last Question." In it he postulated that computer power and perceived intelligence would grow to such an extent that it would become a creator once the universe died.  The story ends with the sentient computer declaring, "Let there be light." The computer in question, Multivac, goes through various incarnations from a small system to a global system to one that only exists in space, but can be tapped into by humanity.

The story, written long before our current internet was created, used the then current idea of centralisation, that the ultimate computer that everyone uses would be a singular machine.  "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers," is a famous, and probably apocryphal quote from IBM chief Thomas Watson. The modern Internet's power is not, of course, from a single box, but it is a single, if multifaceted beast, each cell of it's vast, fractured brain a single instance of information stored on a myriad of devices.


The true power, perhaps intelligence, of this resource is a long way from becoming properly harnessed - search engines get closest, but they are little more than a phone directory of such vastness that useful conclusions are scant. However, whatever the mechanism of turning this data, this knowledge if you will, into something singular, without the input of a broader, more representative slab of humanity, then the database is always going to be far from complete. For this to happen, however, requires the rather boring first step of connecting everyone, or at least a broad majority.

However global we like to think of internet communication, the reality is that vast areas of our populated planet have little or no  connectivity, and many parts have government restricted, partial connectivity. While we are relying on a bit of flex, this will always be the case.

Into the breach step @richardbranson of Virgin Galactic and Greg Wyler of OneWeb, now a good part owned by Virgin. Their plan is simple, use the Virgin Galactic  #LauncherOne to create a constellation of satellites around the globe that will allow connectivity at high speed from anywhere on the planet (and I assume any passing aliens who have highjacked the password).

The dream of total global connection is neither new or only being persued by one consortium. @SpaceX, a major player in the launcher world and who works closely with @NASA also has plans to launch a Satellite constellation.

But what does this truly mean for the global economy and for the small micro economies that typify many areas of the developing world?

Computers have increased efficiency in many aspects of our life and certainly have reinvented the idea of convenience, but they have also put a huge personal cost burden on individual and a power burden on countries.  The hope as to be, therefore that access to global knowledge (of varying quality and accuracy) and global trader will out weight the cost penalties.

But however altruistic the notion of global connectivity is, in the end, all this is being financed privately and will be run privately. Our world, our countries, our provinces have evolved from control by small groups of people of small groups of people, to one of control of large groups of people by rulers for the benefit of the rulers, and then to control by rulers for the benefit of business, upon which we are all reliant to one extent or another. This new era will see control by business directly for the benefit of business.

It is impossible to see how this process can be stopped. As we demand more technological solutions and as those solutions become more and more costly (OneWeb's project estimate is in the billions), so it is less likely that a government, elected or not, can afford it. So, the cost is taken on by private enterprise, and private enterprise controls the resource.

These projects by OneWeb and their competitor SpaceX are fascinating and could make a world of difference to a huge number of currently disconnected people, but it is inevitable that in applauding these advancements, we are also handing over the ends of the puppet strings.

Talk about it

Be nice, don't swear, keep to the subject. This is not some "adult only" room where you can be a big jerk and think you are all grown up. We are all stuck in the middle one way or another, so be fair to the others you are stuck with.

Love and kisses, @its_middle_me

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