Towards a Public Digital Infrastructure

Continuing the discussion from About the Tell Us About You category:

Hello people,

I was drawn to this conversation by way on Open Calls on the platform where I saw a link to Is the communitarian Internet back in the wake of COVID-19? – A conversation with Howard Rheingold. I was curious, as I know @howard_rheingold in person, and was happily surprised to see this is a Discourse site running!

I don’t reason in terms of a single question to drive my work, let alone it be a burning question. If I would, I guess it would go something like: given the current trends in energy consumption, what must we do to prevent the extinction of complex life on Earth and shift – if at all possible – to a way of life that makes us humans part of the global organism we call our planet?

I was born, which is how we all get started. Then someday I hit a keyboard, sent an email, got response. It changed my life as I realized the Internet could be a life-changing phenomenon. In the last five years though, I tend to consider high-tech as more of a burden than a liberating mean, as too many critical people are not (going to be) using it, especially peasants, who are about the only people who can save us from the greed of obsolete economic and political theories. But I digress – or not: maybe this the biggest hurdle I’ve met along the way, maybe it is really ; that people in charge try to follow a normative model that does no-one any good, including themselves. I was lucky enough to spend some quality time – although not enough – with @howard_rheingold and what I learned from him is that brilliance requires a lot of compassion and love for life – but not Life in an abstract sense, but incarnate life, with strong presence to oneself and the others around you ; and this is not something that can find any technological solution. I bet if people were happier about their life on Earth, we’d be living with much less, in much better conditions. But…

Like everyone else I guess, I must compose with forces going in other directions. My biggest doubt, especially with the COVID-19 crisis, is that people may not be capable of getting rid of their over-costly habits – when I hear that we should be “catching up with what we ‘missed’ from being confined” and that would be more energy consumption, more competition, more production, I have serious doubts we can make it.

Never give up. If it seems impossible, it’s probably because you’re looking at it from, or “through unearthly angles”. Reality is entangled, and there is “spooky action at a distance”. What you see, is not what you get. And in @howard_rheingold’s words:

So, why this topic’s name: “Towards a Public Digital Infrastructure”?

Well, I was eating from the trash, living in a squat, hacking away. And I met many other people in the same case, hacking on free software, privacy-enhancing software, software that was being critical to many other people organizing around the world. And every time the same topic was coming back: we lack funds. We’re broke. We can’t compete against giants… In 2012, a number of people gathered during the Berlin Art Biennial to discuss peer-to-peer Internet systems. Everyone had the same problem. So I started working on it. I met people. I looked around, asked around. In 2017 I founded the Public Universal Base: Libre Infrastructure Community (PUBLIC). We gather like-minded people, we go after funding. One call at a time. And from the dozen projects who were part of the 2012 P2P meeting in Berlin, I’m happy to say that most of them are now funded. Thanks to this cooperative effort of a bunch of people who, behind the scenes, build capacity for the free software community. And NGI has been helpful so far in this direction, but we’re light-years away still to shift the paradigm from competition to cooperation, where all our efforts should be going since we do not have much time left to keep our civilization from crashing. The NGI effort is a tiny piece of the huge European construct. As it slowly grows towards acceptance of free software and the Commons, we humans have a chance to shift away from self-destruction.

Thank you for your attention.


Hello @how, great to have you here! Looking forward to having you in the conversations here on the NGI Edgeryders platform. :slight_smile:

As you already know Howard Rheingold and the NGI project I think this recent post from Edgeryders Co-founder @alberto would be a good introduction of that part of the equation, and from your story, I think you will aprechiate the “Stange Solace” of Edgeryders:

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Greetings @how I’m sorry I missed this the first time around. Obsessing about affairs over here in the USA no doubt. And here it is at the end of June with things just that much closer to…civilization crashing? You could infer that from how things are going in some parts of the USA. Fortunately not where I am and when last I talked with Howard a couple of weeks ago, they were fine too.

I think that economic and racial justice are fully bound to the Covid virus now and can’t be separated out. So added to pre and post covid NGI related questions about identity, surveillance, privacy, climate, working and functioning remotely, IoT and all the so-called smart tech must now be justice in ways that were perhaps given lower priority not too many months ago.