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Subject: IP: Unintended Consequences

  • From: David Farber <>
  • Date: Sun, 14 Sep 1997 22:54:28 -0400

To: Dave Farber <>
CC: Jock Gill <>
Subject: Unintended Consequences


(Post to IP if you wish.)

Here is a prediction which is important to understand:  stupid networks
connecting smart points on the the edges wins.  The center, whose?,
where? with its faith its higher order, centralized, control of smart
networks, loses.  The encryption plans currently being promoted by the
administration can be seen as a vain effort to hold the power of the
center and to defeat the edge.  In the long run, not only are we all
dead, but the plan won't work.

Consider that if we are to liberate ourselves from carbon based
electricity, to avoid the catastrophe of massive increases in
atmospheric C02 levels, we need to embrace new models of distributed
power creation, management and use.  Thus, it is  surely the case, at
least for national security and new energy policies,  that the future
will create networked homes as intelligent end points of stupid
networks.  To be acceptable in our culture, these new American homes
must be secure from "big brother" and the occupants must be comfortable
that their privacy in their homes is not compromised by the presence of
a myriad of  inter-networked devices.   We MUST have very secure privacy
at the endpoints.  This means very good encryption as well as identity

The encryption policy that the Administration is currently pushing with
great success would make the home of the future completely insecure and
devoid of  any reasonable sense of privacy.  Why, because there could be
no secrets. Is this a good idea?  Perhaps it is time to consider what
the unintended consequences of any encryption policy might be and to
evaluate the damages that might accrue.  For example, the current
Administration proposal for encryption policy would lock us in to stupid
homes dependent upon carbon based, centrally created and distributed
electricity.  This is a known national security risk whose solution the
Administration would unintentionally obstruct.

Clearly the old cold war models of societal infrastructure, threat, and
security, which are informing the security apparatus' policy drive on
encryption, will deliver neither sustainable national security --
centers are too easy to take out -- nor a sustainable environment.

Here is an excellent essay on stupid networks which I strongly recommend
you read.

                       RISE OF THE STUPID NETWORK


                Why the Intelligent Network was once a good idea,
                 but isn't anymore. One telephone company nerd's
                odd perspective on the changing value proposition.

                         David Isenberg - -
                 Opportunity Discovery Department, AT&T Labs - Research

                                    June 4, 1997

As Bob Frankston tells me: There's been an online discussion about it
that has been archived as

What happens when we have, as David P. Reed says, IP Everywhere?
Combined with censors everywhere, all of which are controlled from the
web?  I doubt the current encryption policy is congruent with this
future.  What sort of story does that tell?



Jock Gill

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