Reading

The in­ter­net used to be this utopian idea - free ex­change of knowl­edge, com­mu­ni­ca­tion etc.

Ada Lovelace: Mathematician, writer, gam­bler and the writer of the first pro­gramme. Unlike Babbage, show had this grand, po­etic vi­sion of what math­e­mat­ics and com­put­ing could do.

Analytical engine Analytical en­gine by Chalres Babbage (1871). Science Museum

Manebrea (who wrote up Babbage’s lec­ture) had a very lim­ited view of the ma­chine - a mech­a­nism that does math­e­mat­ics. Lovelace reads Manebrea’s French pa­per, trans­lates it into English and adds notes which go be­yond what bab­bage had done

It must be ev­i­dent how mul­ti­far­i­ous and com­pli­cated are the con­sid­er­a­tions: There are fre­quently sev­eral dis­tinct sets of ef­fects go­ing on simoul­ta­ne­ously; all in a man­ner in­de­pen­dent of each other, and yet to a greater or less de­gree ex­er­cis­ing a mu­tual in­flu­ence.

Through math­e­mat­ics, see she sees this grander con­nec­tion be­tween all of us. This no­tion of every­thing be­ing con­nected is also very Opium - you see it re­peated in 19th cen­tury writ­ing.

Put these two to­gether, and you have the Victorian Internet. Instead:

1832: Carl von Clausewitz: On War [Vom Kriege] This is the first at­tempt at a com­plete man­ual of any­thing that could pos­si­bly hap­pen in a mil­i­tary cam­paign. Information, sup­plies, troop move­ments, ter­rain etc.

The mil­i­tary ma­chine, the Army and all be­long­ing to it, is in fact sim­ple, and ap­pears on this ac­count easy to man­age. But let us re­flect that no part of it is in one piece, that it is com­posed en­tirely of in­di­vid­u­als, each of which keeps up its own fric­tion in all di­rec­tions.

So: He re­futes Lovelace’s ma­chine that seam­lessly works to­gether. Machines (army) are made up of many in­di­vid­ual parts (people), all of which have fric­tion. Of course the en­emy of the an­a­lyt­i­cal en­gine is fric­tion.

War is the con­tin­u­a­tion of pol­icy by other means

Clasewitz here is the first to rec­og­nize war as an ex­ten­sion of state pol­icy. Between Clausewitz and the Second World War, noth­ing re­ally changes in terms of mil­i­tary prac­tice.

Vannevar Bush (1945) in The Atlantic: As We May Think

This has not been a sci­en­tists war - Bush is wrong here. Totally a sci­en­tists’ war.

His cen­tral ob­ser­va­tion is that we’re sud­denly able to mass-pro­duce com­plex de­vices, mak­ing them avail­able to every­one.

After the sec­ond world war: The rise of the or­gan­i­sa­tion. The RAND cor­po­ra­tion is the first think­tank: de­signed not to pro­duce things, but ideas and processes.

RAND HQ in Santa Monica Aerial view of for­mer RAND Corporation head­quar­ters look­ing west. Santa Monica Civic Center

They had all these dif­fer­ent sci­en­tists from var­i­ous dis­ci­plines. The cam­pus was de­signed in such a way that you had to cross each other on the way to the of­fice. People were en­cour­aged to leave their doors open, pre­sent work on black­boards etc. Once you were in­side the build­ing, you could talk to any­one and have ac­cess to every­one’s work.

Norbert Wieder (1948): Cybernetics, or con­trol and com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the an­i­mal and the ma­chine This coins the term cy­ber­net­ics

the es­sen­tial unity of the set of prob­lems cen­ter­ing about com­mu­ni­ca­tion, con­trol, and sta­tis­ti­cal me­chan­ics, whether in the ma­chine or liv­ing tis­sue.

To Wiener, there is no dif­fer­ence be­tween peo­ple, ma­chines and plants - they all deal with in­for­ma­tion and re­act in some way. He also un­der­stands that af­ter WW2, a pow­er­ful ma­chine is­n’t one that is phys­i­cally pow­er­ful (lift weight etc), but the pow­er­ful ma­chine is one that moves in­for­ma­tion.

SAGE (1958) By Bell Telephone, IBM, RAND, ARPA All these peo­ple built a sys­tem to col­late in real-time all the radar-in­for­ma­tion in the U.S. and trans­mit all of it to some base, where it could be ac­cessed vi­su­ally and in real-time. The screen is the first de­vice de­signed for a hu­man and a cy­ber­netic sys­tem to in­ter­act.

SAGE desk A SAGE op­er­a­tor at a Situation Display Console, hold­ing a light gun. The Atlantic

Of course, all of this is dri­ven by the cold war. Paul Baran, who joined RAND in 1960, asked: How do we com­mu­ni­cate once nu­clear war starts?. He re­alises tat the com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work ar­chi­tec­ture it­self is the prob­lem.

Packet switch­ing plays into this - if some of the pack­ets are lost on the way, the oth­ers are still go­ing to go through.

The first ARPANET nodes map ARPANET Geographic Map, September 1973. Quartz

In the 1970s uni­ver­si­ties, mil­i­tary con­trac­tors and the mil­i­tary are talk­ing to each other

Interface message processor Interface Message Processor (IMP). Computer History Museum

This is es­sen­tially the first mo­dem. When these were in­stalled in uni­ver­si­ties, they came in a steel safe.

  1. Universities are full of Vietnam crit­ics who might smash the thing as a weapon of war
  2. Phone Phreaks

Phone Phreaks History of Phone Phreaking

If you knew what to do, you could turn a tele­phone sys­tem into a com­puter. Wozniak was one of them (he built the blue box which let you make free calls some­how)

These were the first hack­ers.

Esalen Institute

Tim Leary: Program Me

A group of peo­ple that goes from do­ing LSD in the 1960s to work­ing in com­put­ing in the 1970s. This is where the utopian idea of the in­ter­net emerges

The first gulf war is the first on­line war - broad­cast live, 24 hours a day. The rea­son for this is be­cause money mar­kets work 24 hours a day, and peo­ple need to mon­i­tor what’s go­ing on. This is the first time news casts start talk­ing about in­for­ma­tion as a ey part of war

CNN humvee

Stricom: The com­puter wing onf the army All but war is sim­u­la­tion

Stricom Insignia

Now we’re not re­ally talk­ing any­more about cy­ber­net­ics in war­fare, but cy­ber­ware. YOu could turn off elec­tric­ity, ex­plode power plants etc. But maybe more dan­ger­ously, you can mess with in­for­ma­tion - sow so­cial con­flict, ma­nip­u­late elec­tions, fake news etc.

CNN: Twitter and Facebook as Tools for so­cial war­fare Rather than some great shared record, there’s frag­men­ti­za­tion of knowl­edge.