Vint Cerf Wants Your Help Re-Imagining The Internet - InformationWeek

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Vint Cerf Wants Your Help Re-Imagining The Internet

Vint Cerf, recognized as one of the fathers of the Internet, is using social media to generate new ideas about how the Web should evolve.

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rethink the business model around archiving and likens it to early libraries. "We saw libraries in the United States emerge initially from private sector support from people like Andrew Carnegie," said Cerf. "Eventually it became so important that the public could get the information that they needed [that] we saw the creation of public libraries. No one business model can solve this problem alone."

Cerf added: "I don't want to rely solely on accidental preservation. I would like to have, at my beck and call, technology that will allow me and others to save their own data and access it without worrying about what it was created on."

[ What does tech pioneer Cees Links think about the Internet of Things? Read Wifi Pioneer Cees Links: IoT Is Like a Butler. ]

While there's much work to be done in order to preserve the past, Cerf said he sees great potential in how the Internet can shape the future, particularly as a tool for changing and improving the 21st century classroom.

"Historically, we think of classrooms as oriented around desks and chairs [facing] toward the teacher at the center of the room," Cerf said, "It is a broadcast format. The teacher teaches and students take notes. I think another model might be more interesting. Maybe students are talking to each other instead of listening to a teacher, or they have access to remote instruments, or [are] talking to other classrooms, or maybe they are at home. Classrooms aren't very distinct. The idea that you really don' t have to be in the classroom to learn is very interesting."

Cerf is especially interested in the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) model. "Not only do you have a multiplier effect of how many people can be in the classroom," Cerf said, "but there are also ways to personalize education, followed by remedial help if you need it."

The model is challenging to implement, according to Cerf, "because you have to guess what students won't understand and plan accordingly." In some ways, the concept of MOOCs is not far removed from Cerf's views about letter-writing. He agreed that in both cases there's the opportunity to make discussions more thoughtful. In fact, he said he's hoping that his letter-writing efforts will spark a redesign of the 21st century classroom.

Internet Inflection Point

Is the Internet he helped create disappointing him? Cerf said he doesn't think the Internet is broken. Rather, we're at an inflection point where we need to think about how we want it to evolve. He stressed that the Internet is only an infrastructure. How you choose to use it makes all the difference, and, he said, "I'd like to think the constructive uses outweigh the non-constructive uses."

Cerf does sound an important warning about the Internet, and Google searches in particular. "When you get an answer [via an online search] you have to decide if you believe the answer," he said. "This is called critical thinking. Where did the information come from, and do we trust it? And so there is more burden on us."

(Image: Vint Cerf)

(Image: Vint Cerf)

Still, he said his only disappointment is that there are 3 billion people online, "and 4 billion people to go."

If we find a way to get those other 4 billion people on the Internet, maybe they can help us evolve it and address Cerf's other questions.

In the meantime, Cerf's letter sits as a challenge and an invitation to all who are interested in the Internet. How do we make it better? What should it be used for? How can we bring deeper exchanges of information back to the Internet?

These are interesting questions to ponder in an era in which Internet content is judged by how quickly it goes viral. "The fact that 9 million people look at something isn't about exchange," Cerf said, "This letter invites people who want to be involved to express their thoughts. On the Internet, if you get comments, they are usually rather brief, and they lead to a crazy debate on beliefs. I hope this creates a more thoughtful exchange."

If a more thoughtful exchange is something that interests you, check out Cerf's letter and help him evolve the Internet.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
9/15/2015 | 10:56:05 PM
Re: The future internet
Here I was thinking that whatever happens on the Internet never leaves the Internet, and now we learn that whole reams of data today will soon be inaccessible in 10 years. While I agree that a vast majority of it won't be missed, just like a vast majority of paper letters from past centuries are not missed as they moldered into dust. The important people --- who want to be remembered by history, like Lincoln's cabinet --- will make sure their digital notes are retained and available for as long as eternity will allow. 
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
9/14/2015 | 8:18:52 AM
Re: The future internet
Sorry, that may be his intent but I tend to see public addresses like this as a tactic to rally the troops.  If he really is looking for dialogue regarding then more power to him and I hope he finds a really good group that can talk this out without selfish influence.  Honestly I think we could use a little bit of a digital dark age, there are a lot of things on the web that could go away and we would be better off by not using the resources in use to keep it on life support.
fkodama
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fkodama,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/13/2015 | 11:41:01 PM
Re: History and Forecast
Couple a days ago, I was infected by some nasty piece of software, it reachs the bios. When I plugged the backup level1 it trashed the second HD. There is a lot of procedures to curate old things an a entire field of Electronic History is borning. It demands pieces of hardware like ASICdevices to clone storage before using it, to guarantee not losing the architecture.

Now talking about future, I guess Matrix will not be a revolution, it will be a 'smooth' transition that would happens while each new technology spreads over the globe. I'm afraid of crazy politics, that represents major economic and minor amount of people not being aware of what button they are pushing.

In somehow, we are living now the Einstein 'between past frame and future frame' deterministic but still with self awereness of free will cause ipfs is not spread and we can get a partial and at same time global, static view of entire situation, when it becomes quantum, this self awareness will be lost, not because this or that, because analisys is just that, analisys, world keep running.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/11/2015 | 11:56:19 AM
Re: The future internet
@SaneIT- Well, he's worried about more than the Digital Dark Ages. i think he is just hoping to open a wider dialogue on what we should and can do with this thing.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
9/11/2015 | 8:19:42 AM
Re: The future internet
It sounds more like Vint Cerf should be looking for internet curators then rather than shaping the "new" internet.  No matter how well planned selective data preservation is, someone is going to claim it is completely wrong, history being written by the winners and all.   I don't think we need to preserve every news story, every tiny event, etc. but we should be taking snapshots of relevant sites and trends more from a tracking than a shaping standpoint.  What I would fear is attempts to shape as they are determining what needs to be saved. 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/10/2015 | 7:45:35 PM
Re: The future internet
@SaneIT- You are right to a certian extent. We're not all that worried about saving a hundred years of lost phone calls. there are many things we shouldn't be worried about saving from our current time. That said, I think Cerf's comment about "accidental" preservation is very on point. We don't want to rely on just what gets randomly saved. We need to make smart choices. Technology could allow us to make those choices.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/10/2015 | 7:42:41 PM
Re: Lost in time
@Tom- While i support Cerf's general plan, I'm sort of OK with it. If we leave behind too much, historians won't be able to read it all or make sense of it anyway. Letting a little slip away is natural and human and almost romantic. Frankly, I'm OK if everything i ever said on Facebook disappears. :)
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/10/2015 | 7:39:03 PM
Re: Yes, write letters (Lincoln did.)
@Charlie- Lincoln's Gettysburg address was very short for a political speech of the day. Maybe Lincoln would have also been the master of Twitter. :)
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
9/10/2015 | 6:37:21 PM
Yes, write letters (Lincoln did.)
In "The Fiery Trial," historian Eric Foner describes how Lincoln wrote letters to the American people during the trying years of the Civil War, outlining his views on the Union and what to do about the slaves freed by Union armies and those still in thrall to their Southern masters. These letters were among his main public utterances and were the source of constant newspaper editorials and tavern debates. His thinking evolved step by step in these letters as the war progressed, as did that of the Union as a whole. Who knows where we would be today if he only used email or issued Tweets.

 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
9/10/2015 | 5:01:42 PM
Lost in time
In Blade Runner, Roy Batty's musing on mortality sums up the fate of our electronic conversations: "All these moments will be lost in time. Like tears in rain."

Cerf is right that we should do more to preseve our digital past. But so much will disappear anyway.
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