After the Fall

Looking for answers from technology and technologists

3 min read

Technology was everywhere in the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the World Trade Center towers in New York City on 11 September. There was the technological extravagance of the Twin Towers themselves--financial exclamation points, beckoning beacons for terrorists, or symbols of world peace, depending on your geopolitical point of view. There was astonishment at the terrorists' choice of weapons and the ease with which they turned four large commercial airliners into ultraprecise cruise missiles. There was the tsunami of cell phone, digital camera, and Internet activity that sent audiovisual gigabytes of horror around the world, allowing people in London and Tokyo to view events as they unfolded. Even passengers in the doomed fourth plane that crashed in Pennsylvania got news of the other three hijackings and apparently took action against their captors.

And in the aftermath, there were the calls for family members to bring in toothbrushes and cell phone numbers so that DNA forsenics could be used to identify body parts and frequency "sniffers" to find functioning cell phones--and perhaps their owners--amid 625 000 tons of rubble. Since the attacks, there have been calls for more electronic surveillance, more counterterrorism technologies, and more defense machinery to seek out and destroy this kind of savage malevolence.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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