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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Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
9/10/2015 | 7:19:33 AM
History
The historical aspect of the web is important. The Web Archive is a great solution and I hope that more MMOs and large scale games are stored somewhere so people can remember them for what they were. The problem is that just as physical media requires physical space, digital media can take up digital space, so someone has to pay for their storage. 

Finding that person is the important part here. We need a digital Library of Alexander. 
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
9/10/2015 | 8:16:29 AM
The future internet
"Our modern communications tend to be very brief and rapid and don't involve thinking because we have another 100 emails to get through. The result is a lot of short, terse, not substantive communications."

 

I think what we're seeing is a more conversational internet.  We have daily conversations that are lost to time but those stories are still passed down verbally.  I think that's the direction we're headed, a less formal communication path.  I look at it in the same light as television and radio, the presentations are far less formal the delivery is much more comfortable and conversational but you still have pockets where formality and standards are strictly adhered to.  The internet will be much the same, left on for background noise and occasional checking in when something catches your attention.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
9/10/2015 | 1:11:43 PM
Re: History
Cerf is such a brilliant guy, nice to know people like him are thinking about these issues. But part of this transcends digital. Think of drawings on cave walls or old paper documents where the language the information is in nobody speaks anymore. That seems like more of a problem than what type of digital encoding is used.

This makes me think about that recent movie where girl gets a massive dose of this drug that unlocks her brain to operate at full capacity. As she acquires all knowledge that exists, she wants to pass it on to this professor. So she morphs into some kind of biological computer and produces a USB stick containing all this knowledge. As movie ended, I couldn't help thinking I hoped she used the right USB format so he could read it.
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.
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.

 
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. :)
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 | 7:45:35 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.
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
9/11/2015 | 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.
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