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Q&A With MIT's Nicholas Negroponte 185

Posted by Hemos
from the learn-at-the-feet dept.
Lisa Langsdorf writes "Thought you might be interested in this interview between Nicholas Negroponte and BusinessWeek Online's Steven Baker. In it, Nicholas says that peer-to-peer is his prediction as to which new products or services are likely to make the biggest splash, he says: Peer-to-peer is key. I mean that in every form conceivable: cell phones without towers, sharing leftover food, bartering, etc. Furthermore, you will see micro-wireless networks, where everyday devices become routers of messages that have nothing to do with themselves. Nature is pretty good at networks, self-organizing systems. By contrast, social systems are top-down and hierarchical, from which we draw the basic assumption that organization and order can only come from centralism. "
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Q&A With MIT's Nicholas Negroponte

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  • by JoeLinux (20366) <`joelinux' `at' `gmail.com'> on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:21PM (#9456337) Homepage
    "Honestly mom, that pr0n was just going THROUGH my device. I think it just got stuck!"
    • by mattjb0010 (724744) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:23PM (#9456360) Homepage
      "Honestly mom, that pr0n was just going THROUGH my device. I think it just got stuck!"

      Like this? [bash.org]

      • At first I was scared to click this link (I know I'm not the only one), but I had to come back for it.

        I am relieved to say that it is both work-safe (as long as no one is in your immediate vicinity) and somewhat amusing.

        • BTW, unlike the url in the implies you can indeed unburn a monitor if it has not been exposed too long (e.g., years). Make a solid full intensity white full screen image, crank up the brightness and contrast of the monitor, and let it sit there. Basically your burning over the old burn and bringing everything back up (or down if you prefer). It works most of the time if the burn isn't too severe (e.g., i don't think it would work on a 12 year old ATM monitor).
  • Jesus... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:21PM (#9456347)
    Well blow me, this guy is obviously a genious. I mean after all this time that several million people have been using P2P, somebody thinks it might be used a lot in the future..

    Come one, did we really need some computer geek to tell us that?
    There's nothing more to see here, next story please.
    • Nicholas... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by aminorex (141494) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @05:55PM (#9457257) Homepage Journal
      The point Negroponte was making was that p2p
      has not yet achieved its potential. You must
      admit that after the boom in filesharing,
      new applications of peer-oriented network
      protocols dropped off dramatically. But the
      economies and liberties enabled by p2p have
      not yet begun to emerge in many areas where
      they can be applied to good effect.

      • And the dream of any hacker who is also a marxist :-). I may like the Catholic Church for a lot of stuff- but the worst influence it's had on society is giving us hierarchial command structures. That influence goes to everything we've ever done in western society- and it's the one thing that the Gospel of Luke (which I call the Communist Gospel, since in it's second part it has some examples of early communism springing up as the social model for early Catholicism) preaches the most against- and yet as so
        • Blockquoth the parent:

          I may like the Catholic Church for a lot of stuff- but the worst influence it's had on society is giving us hierarchial command structures.

          The Catholic Church gave us hierarchical command structures? Umm, then what happened during those 4,000 years of human civilization before the birth of Christ?

          • The Catholic Church gave us hierarchical command structures? Umm, then what happened during those 4,000 years of human civilization before the birth of Christ?

            Disorganized survival of the fittest, it seems. Look at Rome before the Church took over- he who assasinated everybody above him became emperor. There's a reason why the Church is called "Civilization's Builder and Protector". Of course, I'm talking WESTERN civilization; there's more to humanity than just the west.
        • Methinks it's more that the Catholic Church got it's hierarchial command structures from society than that it gave them to society.

          A varmit with a political agenda will fare better to the extent he can make it seem religious rather than political.
          • Quite possibly- though it seems to have started long before the Catholic Church was legal, let alone a part of the controling society. I'm thinking about the Council of Jerusalem, which turned into a hierarchial tug of war between Peter, Paul, and James (James being the bishop of Jerusalem at the time, and not wanting to give up centralized control, Paul working for an utterly decentralized model, and Peter working to expand the centralized model to cover new converts).
      • p2p like, say, DNS? or email? or usenet? they're ALL p2p, just not used necessarily for swapping music (apart from usenet, maybe).
  • Now my work computer will tell me I'm out of milk at home.

    "Your home liquid calcium levels are low. Please pause at the grocers and aquire more."
  • P2P (Score:5, Funny)

    by Unnngh! (731758) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:23PM (#9456359)
    devices become routers of messages that have nothing to do with themselves

    Almost like...The Internet!?!?!

    • Re:P2P (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:51PM (#9456660)
      Funny... but misses the point. When you hit a web page from home, all the computers (routers, proxy servers, etc) that the data passes through have been built, configured and installed for the central purpose of moving data. In that sense they have *everything* to do with routing your web page.

      What Negroponte means is that your phone will pass data for other clients like a router does, but it will also be your mobile phone (a helpful, interactive, personal device). So instead of having a fairly strict division between client, server, and message-passing machines, each device will contain the transport functions and also do something individualistic.

      This architecture, it seems to me, will imply encryption throughout -- somehow, people are more concerned by the idea of their data passing through other individuals' devices (what if they look at it?!) than they are sending the data through the hands of a few mega-corporations. I would say this is a good thing...
      • Re:P2P (Score:4, Interesting)

        by finkployd (12902) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @05:19PM (#9456942) Homepage
        This architecture, it seems to me, will imply encryption throughout -- somehow, people are more concerned by the idea of their data passing through other individuals' devices (what if they look at it?!) than they are sending the data through the hands of a few mega-corporations. I would say this is a good thing...

        I agree this is a good thing, but I want to point out that I really don't care if most of my stuff is encrypted. The stuff I do care about is pretty much all encrypted anyway. Someone wants to watch the bits while I pull up slashdot, or download a new kernel, they are welcome to it. I am REALLY concerned about the integrity of pretty much all my data though. So those packets better be signed in someway so I know there was no tampering.

        Finkployd
  • viruses (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mwheeler01 (625017) <matthew.l.wheeler@nosPAm.gmail.com> on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:23PM (#9456363)
    let's hear it for a better way to spread viruses. As we all know bluetooth is now starting to spread viruses from phone to phone...this is the wave of the future.
    • Re:viruses (Score:3, Informative)

      by gl4ss (559668)
      uhhuh "as we all know".. it's a wave of the future that you can transfer data with devices meant for transferring data?

      yeah, well, did you read anything about the 'virus'? it was more like "hey, it's possible to TRANSFER PROGRAMS WITH BLUETOOTH" than being of any major concern to anyone.. unless you think it's a major concern to somebody that you can transfer a program to your friend if you want to do so and your friend can choose to run that program if he wants.. if the user _wants_ to install something i
      • Here [slashdot.org] is the link I was too lazy to include earlier. Better explains my comment...and when I said we I meant regular readers of slashdot, which apparently you aren't.
        • I knew what you were referring to, I just happen to know how the worm works. apparently you just didn't know what the worm really does, IT DOESN'T EXPLOIT ANY SECURITY HOLE AT ALL, the 'victim' that receives the file needs to run through the installation procedure like with any symbian app installed.

          http://www.sophos.com/virusinfo/analyses/symbca b ir a.html

          the possibility of writing such a worm that needs *user interaction and permittance* to spread was known from the day the first s60 platform phone was
          • Your point is well taken, however I was posting to be funny, I really didn't think that viruses would bring such systems to a screeching halt very easily. In addition I would argue that your average cell phone user is even less tech savvy than your average email user. Any sysadmin that has to deal with email worms on their system knows that user permittance is a lot easier to get than one would imagine.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:24PM (#9456371)
    You should realize that this Nick Negroponte is the SAME GUY that whored himself to Swatch to promote their ridiculous "Internet Time" initiative.
  • I wonder... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hazy_fakie (781520) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:24PM (#9456372)
    exactly how can peer-to-peer networks come into our lives so easily. I mean how do you trust totally unknown people to transfer your data/food/whatever between any two points?
    As a matter of fact, who would trust their credit card number to travel through a peer-to-peer network to get to the company he/she's ordering from? And this is just money... how about food as mentioned in the article?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "And this is just money... how about food as mentioned i the article?"

      I think you have some priority issues, mate.
    • Mail (Score:5, Insightful)

      by meehawl (73285) <meehawl,spam&gmail,com> on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:27PM (#9456408) Homepage Journal
      I mean how do you trust totally unknown people to transfer your data/food/whatever between any two points?

      This happens every day when I drop mail into the postbox. Or when I buy a banana in the local market.
      • Re:Mail (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Nakito (702386) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:43PM (#9456574)
        This happens every day when I drop mail into the postbox.

        I think your analogy actually cuts the other way. When you drop your mail into the mailbox, it enters a highly regulated, automated, centralized system that collects fees (i.e., stamps) of which the government gets a cut. Yes, it's true that you do not know the people, but you sure know who they work for.

        By contrast, Negroponte seems to be suggesting that you would (in effect) hand your letter to a stranger on the street, who would hand it off to another, who hands it off to another, etc., until it gets to where it's going, with no intervention by a centralized agency.

        It's an interesting theory, but we'll never see it happen, for one obvious reason: it does not lend itself well to being taxed.
        • Re:Mail (Score:3, Insightful)

          by generic-man (33649)
          By contrast, Negroponte seems to be suggesting that you would (in effect) hand your letter to a stranger on the street, who would hand it off to another, who hands it off to another, etc., until it gets to where it's going, with no intervention by a centralized agency.

          It's an interesting theory, but we'll never see it happen, for one obvious reason: it does not lend itself well to being taxed.


          That's the most ridiculous dismissal I've seen in a while. If someone at the USPS messes up my shipment, I can
          • Re:Mail (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Nakito (702386) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @05:07PM (#9456834)
            That's the most ridiculous dismissal I've seen in a while.

            Actually, I meant it in a different way than you have interpreted. Let me try to say it better.

            Centralized governments do not encourage econcomic processes that are not subject to audit and taxation. That is why smuggling is illegal. That is why barter transactions must be reported on your income tax (if you are a US taxpayer). The point I meant to make was that Negroponte's theory does not take this into account. Therefore, I believe it is unlikely that his vision of a decentralized, unregulated, economically-significant distribution system could now come into existence.
        • Full Faith & Credit (Score:3, Interesting)

          by meehawl (73285)
          When you drop your mail into the mailbox, it enters a highly regulated, automated, centralized system that collects fees

          Any mutually inter-dependent system can become self-organising and regulated according to custom and expectations. The key issue is the "centralisation". That's the central point.

          I argue that the centralisation in this case stems from the State monopoly on money. In their recent history States have generally monopolized the right to issue fiat money for settlement of all debts, pub
        • Re:Mail (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jared_hanson (514797) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @05:17PM (#9456933) Homepage Journal
          By contrast, Negroponte seems to be suggesting that you would (in effect) hand your letter to a stranger on the street, who would hand it off to another, who hands it off to another, etc., until it gets to where it's going, with no intervention by a centralized agency.

          I think you are being somewhat shortsighted here. Any P2P system is more centralized than it seems on the surface once you look a bit deeper. The protocol level of these networks are highly centralized in that they are developed at a company or standards body. Any device wanting to be part of the network needs to conform to that protcol. Being that greater power is gained from a bigger network, it is to the device's benefit to conform to the popular protocol.

          Emphasizing humans as carriers for this data is quite rediculous. Most of what you do already is out in the open right now for anyone to see it. Wireless and P2P will make this more prevalent, but hardly mean you have to put more trust in strangers. You are trusting the protocol running over the network. Again, trusting the standards bodies/companies to come up with a reliable protocol.

          Taxing happens at the sale of the device level. Software is of very little use without a device to run on it. Taxing only works when something holds value, which software doesn't necessarily do on its own. That's a bit of a misleading statement but generally correct. Protocols can also have a license "tax" similar to the MPEG standard.

          In short, you shouldn't fear this because it seems more open. Most rapid periods of progress occur when things become more open and free (democracy, railroads, telephone, Internet, etc.) Each invention that opens up information has a certain balance of centralization and openness that gives it credibility. P2P is certainly no different.
          • Emphasizing humans as carriers for this data is quite rediculous.

            Yes, I agree with this completely if you are referring only to electronic transactions. But in the portion of the Negroponte interview that inspired this particular thread, that is exactly what Negroponte suggested. He opines that in the future, the P2P model would apply not only to electronic transactions, but also to basic physical transactions. He specifically mentions bartering and food distribution. Such transactions are not subject t
    • Re:I wonder... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Otto (17870) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:27PM (#9456413) Homepage Journal
      As a matter of fact, who would trust their credit card number to travel through a peer-to-peer network to get to the company he/she's ordering from? And this is just money... how about food as mentioned in the article?
      Why do you trust servers/routers that your number passes through now over the internet?

      Answer: You don't. You use some form of end to end encryption (https).

      As far as the food thing goes, I think he was making a point. I'm not eating anybody's leftovers except my own anytime soon. ;)
    • I mean how do you trust totally unknown people to transfer your data/food/whatever between any two points?

      I'm not sure about food but here's how it works for data:

      1. Get the recipient's public key or public key fingerprint. This is the most general kind of "address" you can possibly have - it says nothing about where to find the recipient or how to deliver the message, but it allows you to verify that the message has been delivered. Generality is good in this context because we don't know what kinds of de
  • Unsatisfied (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wombatmobile (623057) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:26PM (#9456398)

    A: Peer-to-peer is key. I mean that in every form conceivable: cell phones without towers, sharing leftover food, bartering, etc

    Is it just me or is his answer devoid of reasons why "peer-to-peer is key"?

    Nature is pretty good at networks, self-organizing systems. By contrast, social systems are top-down and hierarchical, from which we draw the basic assumption that organization and order can only come from centralism.

    Ok... so, why is "peer-to-peer key"?

    Key to what?

    • Re:Unsatisfied (Score:3, Insightful)

      by metlin (258108) *
      Key to decentralized technology, I suppose, judging from the analogy.

      When you have centralized entities, it does not take much to bring them down -- think Napster. However, when you have genuine P2P -- where there is no real central point of failure, it would become almost impossible to bring out the destruction of such a system.

      And we are always used to central and organized systems (hell, we even have a hierarchy of people ruling, err governing us) -- he just says that this is deviant from the norm beca
      • ...he just says that this is deviant from the norm because we do not have any one point upon which everything is based.

        Therefore, it is unique and will be harder to bring down than traditional systems. Does that help?

        That could make sense if the question was about longevity (and if you can maintain that the likes of IBM, Exxon, Microsoft and the White House have faded into irrelevancy). But look at the original question:

        Q: Which new products or services are likely to make the biggest splash?

        • Re:Unsatisfied (Score:3, Insightful)

          by metlin (258108) *
          Peer to peer technology challenges traditional norms, therefore any new technology that employs P2P is most likely to make a big splash.

          Traditional innovations are stifled by centralization, so if the queen bee falls, everything else around it falls. However, P2P does not have that issue and therefore, any new technology that employs this is more likely to be popular, and will last longer.

          I'm guessing he jumps to this conclusion from the outburst of P2P applications after Napster, and how all the media co
      • I still fail to see how P2P is key. Yes, the network might be harder to take down, but reliability isn't the most important aspect to most systems, usefulness is. In my experience, having a disorganized network becomes more susceptable to abuse. I mean compare Gnutella vs. BitTorrent, I'd argue that BitTorrent generally works better. And that is because there is a little bit of structure built into the system via the tracker.

        I also don't like his nature argument. Nature creates hierarchies too. Your

        • You assume that I support his views -- I do not, I'm skeptical about them being true.

          However, I just brought up the possible reasons as to why he might have made those statements.

          Yes, right now (and maybe for a long time to come) P2P can only be useful from the perspective of distribution and purchase, and not creation in itself. However, we can become more peer to peer than we are at the moment, and maybe that will see changes in the social, economic and technical paradigms than we do currently.

          I guess
    • Re:Unsatisfied (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Have Blue (616)
      You'd think he'd notice that the natural, nonhierarchical primitive evolved naturally towards the top-down system of society in the end. It's also worth noting that Bittorrent, the program most commonly cited as the best P2P design out there, requires a central server to operate, while something like Freenet, which is truly decentralized, is a bear to use and has significantly disdvantages such as being unsearchable.
  • by metlin (258108) * on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:26PM (#9456400) Journal
    I do not agree with some of what he says.

    Companies cannot really see beyond their current customer base. They explicitly or implicitly do things to protect their current customers. And the last person to want real change is your customer. This is why most new ideas come from small companies that have nothing to lose.

    The last person to want real change is not the customer, these days it seems to be the companies making that decision for the customer.

    Think of any area, there are millions of customers who want a change for the better -- however the companies are just not letting the change happen and say that it's for the good of the customer, or that what the customer wants is illegal (and if it isn't illegal, they'll just pass a couple of laws and make it illegal).

    And to be honest, small companies that bring about great innovations are being stifled, especially because they are shit scared of law suits. I'm surprised that Nicholas did not mention this in his interview.

    True, they hold the key. But it does not take much to crush them down, either.
    • You make a good point. It seems to be just a few old-line industries blocking change at every turn. Music companies are trying to squish p2p file sharing, and a host of other technologies. Phone comapnies want to squish VOIP.

      However, there are many larger organizations that innovate for their customers. Even my formerly big crappy bank is adding nice online banking features at every turn.

    • by dtmos (447842) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @05:13PM (#9456888)

      The problem is in the definition of "better." Read "The Innovator's Dilemma [amazon.com]" by Clayton M. Christensen.

      The basic idea is that your present customers value a certain set of features or parameters of your product, which leads you to continue to make the same product, only "better", defining "better" to be "the same as your present product, only with [the parameter(s) they care about] improved." Significant numbers of new customers, however, can only be attracted by a new technology that, while perhaps scoring lower with your present customers, has some other feature that is not in your present product. Christensen uses the example of disk drives, which have been placed in smaller and smaller form factors, even though that hurts the existing customers of disk drive manufacturers, by reducing their storage capacity (which is the parameter the present customers care about). Smaller disk drives, however, enable the drives to be used in minicomputers instead of big iron, then in desktops instead of minicomputers, then in laptops and PDAs, etc., increasing their sales volume each time--the new customers at each transition value physical size over absolute storage capacity. The larger sales volume in turn led to R&D that enabled the new generation to eventually surpass the old in the original performance metric, storage capacity.

      Existing customers resisted the change each time because, for example, the first 3.5-inch drives had less capacity than 5.25-inch drives, and who wants less capacity in a hard drive? But the manufacturer that listened to his present customers, keeping to the 5.25-inch format and not making 3.5-inch drives, found his market, and his business, disappearing quickly. Christensen used the term "incremental change" to describe the capacity improvements made in a given drive form factor (which made existing customers happier), and "distruptive change" to describe the move from one form factor to another (which brought in new customers).

      And that's what Negroponte meant.

    • Think of any area, there are millions of customers who want a change for the better -- however the companies are just not letting the change happen and say that it's for the good of the customer, or that what the customer wants is illegal (and if it isn't illegal, they'll just pass a couple of laws and make it illegal).

      Exactly. I think both the Negroponte brothers dress up their centralized, Statist ideologies as "common sense" [slashdot.org]. Which is a very common strategy of centrists everywhere.
  • by Monty845 (739787) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:27PM (#9456415)
    Wont it take a lot longer for a message to work its way threw a massive network of wireless devices than it would otherwise take for the message to travel threw a conventional backbone? Has anyone come up with a method to reduce the impact the additional routing will create?
    • > Wont it take a lot longer for a message to work its way threw a massive network of wireless devices than it would otherwise take for the message to travel threw a conventional backbone?

      One might have asked, "Why would I want to route this post through hundreds of devices on some crazy internetwork when I could just dial straight into the conventional BBS?"

      Just at thought.
    • But really, what would be wrong with an approach similar to that of lightning: probe routes quickly, caching along the way, then using the shortest-path algorithm (or some such) to choose which path to "solidify" for a bursted data transfer?

      Yeah, i'm half talkin out of my ass there, but ya know, sometimes good ideas show up that way ;-)

      Oh yeah, the other prob with that, wouldn't it need lots of network traffic and ram just to maintain a network of path/nodes/phones/whatever?
    • I'm quite convinced that this sort of network need geographical addressing, not IP.

      you know your position and the position of your near neighbours, you know the small obstacles near you (the forest) and the small shortcut near you,
      bigger obstacles and bigger shortcuts a little farther away, and you know the big obstacles far away (the oceans...) and the big shortcuts (cables, sat links...), and you deduce the approximate direction you need to route to.

      As for mobility, you have a geographically fixed syste
  • Sorry... (Score:2, Informative)

    by acey72 (716552)
    ..typical Negroponte - jumping on the bandwagon way after everyone else has a seat - look how long it took the MIT media lab to get a website.
  • What happened to Negroponte? He used to be everywhere, then he disappeared as the web seemed to totally subsume the Media Lab's vision of the future.
  • ...sharing leftover food, bartering...

    Yes, and here we have the most depressing economic forecast ever. Don't forget "fighting over petrol" and "driving really fast cars".

  • Late, but ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:30PM (#9456453) Journal
    OK, so Negroponte is a bit 2002 on this one. At least he's expanded his repertoire beyond "Being digital is important. Atoms are heavy; bits are weightless. Did I mention that being digital is important?"

    Kids, back in the olden days of the 1990's, there was a whole magazine that consisted of repeating "Atoms are heavy; bits are weightless." over and over again, interspersed with pictures of stuff they said you had to buy. Strange times.

    • by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:41PM (#9456556)
      Now that same magazine mostly consists of pictures of things you are supposed to buy interspersed with pictures of Sergei Brin and Steve Jobs. Its still mostly toilet paper though.
    • It was too bad that Wired went from being relevant to blatant prostitution.

      There were more ads than content when I cancelled my subscription. I picked up a couple of issues in the years since, but just couldn't find anything to justify making it a regular purchase any more.

  • so if everything is connected, then what happens when the machines realize they no longer need us to bring them together because they are already one?
  • Negroponte's Law (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bstadil (7110) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:32PM (#9456469) Homepage
    Strange the status of Negroponte's Law from his book Being Digital was not brought up

    His law I guess from the early 90's said that everything that was airborne would become fixed conduits and the reverse.

    Example: Television is mostly fixed and stationary so cable will take over. Telephones is for people that is moving so they will switch to Wireless.

  • Saying that organization and order can only come from centralism sounds a little, well, ideologically loaded coming from the brother of John Negroponte [disinfopedia.org], the former US Ambassador to Honduras who seems to have formed the opinion that the best way to establish order in fractious Latin countries was to tacitly allow strong men and dictators to terrorise, torture and kill the populace.

    And now John Negroponte is Bush's choice for next Ambassador to Iraq, where it seems the current US administration obviously
  • Yeah, but if peer to peer really DOES take over, everything would be more equitable, we would be free of all the lock-ins and inefficient bottlenecks the big companies and governments have worked so hard to force on us, and worst of all, with the destruction of the "Overlord" social class, it would basically be the end of the "I, for one, welcome our alien overlords" jokes! Therefore, peer to peer MUST be stopped, if only for the sake of all those Slashdot trolls who don't have the brainpower to write somet
  • I read "Being Digital"... there was absolutely no insight in that book. So Bits are replacing Atoms... brilliant. Maybe someday we'll get email to replace paper-mail... Wow. Where do I sign up to be a guru too.
  • isn't this news as of 2000?

    the killer apps that proved the model: im ala icq, music sharing ala napster, are already dust in the wind, taken over by aim, kazaa, etc.

    and we know what the concerns are with those apps: patent infringement, viruses, spam, etc.

    what we need is a wireless killer app without these concerns thwarting it

    we also need a user base: enough infratstructure and people with bluetooth or whatever wireless protocol enabled gadgets to make a critical mass for the rest of the world to notice

    and then we can start talking about p2p again the way negroponte is

    i don't know what this killer app is, i'm no futurist, but some of you out there closer to the ground with some wacky ideas may be, and i say, to you goes the spoils of the future of computing/ the internet/ media itself

    roll up your sleeves and get programming

    the internet is still a very young place, we are still on the upside of the bell curve of innovation yet to come, so even though what negroponte says is dubious and/ or obvious and therefore useless, the basic observation of the youth of the internet and its promising future remains unchallenged

    that's why futurists like negroponte sound interesting, because they get that (no matter if their predictions are crapola)

    one of you out there reading this is going to become very rich/ influential/ famous

    that is for sure

    but how you are going to do that probably has very little to do with what negorponte is talking about
    • >what we need is a wireless killer app without these concerns thwarting it

      How about VOIP? Wouldn't it be interesting if you could just by a handset and start calling people for free? Perhaps at some point you'd want to make a long distance call and couldn't find a path across the free P2P network (or you wanted a QOS guarantee) which would use your paid subscription, but for a call across town, why not?

  • Erm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MindNumbingOblivion (668443) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:45PM (#9456597)
    Most of this stuff is fairly obvious (to /. at least). It is nice to see mainstream treatment of it though...

    P2P has already proven its effectiveness, whether you look at programs like KaZaA, Mercora, etc. But it works on wired systems because there is established infrastructure that makes the rest of the system work. For his system to work, it would be like taking out the router/server farms from the ISPs and turning every desktop computer into both a router and a server. It adds complexity, and while it ensures redundancy and would keep outages like the earlier one at Akamai from happening, it would require lots of overhead.

    There is a reason that we assume that centralised systems work better; they are easier to establish, coordinate and control. This outlook only works if you are going for a fully anarchist system, which you will never get everyone to buy into, barring a massive sociological paradigm shift; something has to happen that convinces everyone that a truly open society is more beneficial than the current model.

    • There is a reason that we assume that centralised systems work better; they are easier to establish, coordinate and control. This outlook only works if you are going for a fully anarchist system, which you will never get everyone to buy into, barring a massive sociological paradigm shift

      Exactly. I think both the Negroponte brothers dress up their centralized, Statist ideologies as "common sense" [slashdot.org]. Which is a very common strategy of centrists everywhere.
    • There is a reason that we assume that centralised systems work better; they are easier to establish, coordinate and control. This outlook only works if you are going for a fully anarchist system, which you will never get everyone to buy into, barring a massive sociological paradigm shift; something has to happen that convinces everyone that a truly open society is more beneficial than the current model.

      If central command was easier, the USSR would be growing. Oh wait they don't exist anymore.

      Now all you
    • There is a reason that we assume that centralised systems work better; they are easier to establish, coordinate and control.

      The assumption that what we cannot see doen't exist.

      Centralised systems work better for a very few things that we can measure and control effectively.

      Essentially, the centralised system doesn't scale.
  • by DeepDarkSky (111382) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:47PM (#9456614)
    Because historically, smaller groups of very poweful people will always do everything to control the masses. Sure, P2P is great and all, and nature's self-organization is a good model, but human society works like that only in certain limited ways. Free market is supposed to work like that in theory, but in practice, it's obvious the market is not really free.

    Those with money and power will continue to control and influence the masses while giving the masses the illusion of lack of centralized control.

    RIAA, MPAA, governments, banking and financing industries, are all out to centralize control of flow of things. They are not going to give up that power easily. This is partly why we have social classes, and that in the world, the wealthy get wealthier and the poor get poorer, why government's agricultural subsidy create farmers who are not wealthy, but become addicts to subsidy, and why certain companies make so much money from them.

    • RIAA, MPAA, governments, banking and financing industries, are all out to centralize control of flow of things. They are not going to give up that power easily.

      Exactly. I think both the Negroponte brothers dress up their centralized, Statist ideologies as "common sense" [slashdot.org]. Which is a very common strategy of centrists everywhere.
    • Here's a problem with peer-to-peer from the bottom up, at least in wireless. Which "joe user" with a cell phone wants to use up his meager battery life to help another peer transmit along?

      Most cell phones are off 99% of the time, and only turn on a few tens of milliseconds every second or so to see if a call is coming in. If your handset is on to help someone else establish a connection, your battery drains as well as theirs. Any kind of ad-hoc network would seem to be completely inefficient in terms of p
  • Hype that matters? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rafael_es_son (669255) <rafael@human-assisted.i n f o> on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:49PM (#9456633) Homepage

    Nicholas Negroponte is f a r being from a geek. He is a suit that pretends to be one. I have not read a single piece written by this person having anything resembling substance. He embodies the prototypical techological-determinist, quite ill read or prepared for anything besides business-talk. For this, amongst many other reasons, I'd rather read a publication like "Scientific American" than "Wired" any day. This guy is seriously brain-damaged.

    Now what would an interview with this guy be doing in Slashdot?

  • sharing leftover food

    Page me your chalupa...

    Nature is pretty good at networks, self-organizing systems. By contrast, social systems are top-down and hierarchical,

    I always thought that society was a direct result of nature, as exemplified by the complex relationships of wolf pack, a lion pride or a troop of macaques, but seemingly the geniuses at media lab have discovered that social systems are not from nature.

    Skype is remarkable (I know them well) and will change the landscape radically.

    Yet anoth
  • by rudy_wayne (414635) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @05:26PM (#9456993)
    who knows nothing.

    From 1998:

    Nicholas Negroponte predicts "You're going to see within the next year an
    extraordinary movement on the Web of systems for micropayment ... ." He goes on
    to predict micropayment revenues in the Billions of dollars.
    • NN may have been merely off a bit(pass?). The thing about "micropayments" (and I hate that word, I prefer "decipayment") is that there is a large population that can benefit from it ("micro" producers on the web). From all that demand a service provider can arise, as has happened many times in Capitalist history.

      I've complained about this as such to Scott McCloud of webcomic fame. He has since been involved in BitPass. He hardly needed to hear my complaint; my opinion was formed in part by his own bo
  • MIT & Peer-to-Peer (Score:4, Informative)

    by shadowmatter (734276) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @05:36PM (#9457084)
    When someone from MIT says peer-to-peer is a good thing, he's talking about peer-to-peer as an architecture. He does not mean "KaZaA 0wnz!! fr33 pr0n = 1337!!!!111oneoneone." People are interested in peer-to-peer for reasons other than file-sharing because they're scalable architectures that can handle load balancing very well, and have no central point of failure.

    Most peer-to-peer research in universities regards creating better, faster Distributed Hash Tables, or DHTs for short. Typically, for N nodes on an overlay network connected by a DHT, insertion and queries come at log(N) cost. MIT has one of the best, called Chord [mit.edu]. Some DHTs are very fragile and their routing topology can "break" when under extreme churn (when a flash of nodes suddenly join or leave the network), or malicious nodes attempt to manipulate other nodes' routing tables by creating fake identities (see the Sybil attack [rice.edu]) -- Chord has been shown to be very resistant to both. Other notables are Kademlia [nyu.edu] from NYU (which is under the hood of eMule), and Pastry [slashdot.org] from Rice (Microsoft collaborated).

    MIT has done some pioneering research in DHTs, and they have a lot of great minds on it. I'm making my own peer-to-peer program (hopefully it will be ready in a few months) and it will incorporate quite a few of the ideas they've developed. One of their ideas that I find particularly interesting (and I think should be incorporated into BitTorrent, because it seems like the perfect application) is called Vivaldi [mit.edu]. You can read for yourself on how it works, but when applying it to BitTorrent, basicially the tracker would give you peers it thinks you have a low ping time to, as opposed to a random list which may be sub-optimal.

    They're also involved in Project IRIS [project-iris.net], which aims to develop a decentralized Internet infrastructure using all the latest DHT technology. It's funded indirectly through -- gasp -- the government via the NSF.

    So yeah, don't just think that MIT is jumping on the bandwagon. They've been on the bleeding edge for some time.

    - shadowmatter
    • So yeah, don't just think that MIT is jumping on the bandwagon. They've been on the bleeding edge for some time.

      MIT, yes. Negroponte, no. The Media Lab was/is mostly fluff. Serious research goes on in other corridors.

  • by analog_line (465182) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @05:51PM (#9457207)
    By contrast, social systems are top-down and hierarchical, from which we draw the basic assumption that organization and order can only come from centralism.

    This is a fallacy you don't even need to be a PhD to figure out (which is lucky for me). To each person, their social network might appear to be a hierarchical system with them at the top, but that is only because of their rather limited scope, and some helping of selfishness that all of us carry at least a bit of. However all these little social networks are just pieces of the real "Social Network" sitting out there.

    If you know no one, it's really hard to get anything done in this world. The old saw of, "It's not what you know, it's who you know," is truer than many people would like to believe. I route my friends to people and places I know that have what they want or need, exactly like a node on a p2p network does. Me and the people I know are just a small chunk of the Social Network that humanity has built and made itself a part of for the last...gods how long has humanity been around? It's so big it's hard to get a grasp on it. Most people just see themselves and those they know and ignore everything and everyone else, most of the time out of necessity. It's hard enough to cope with the immediate for the vast majority of people out there. Taking the time to look at all the connections and build the big picture is just not something that's worthwhile to most people, but that doesn't mean it's not there if they're not aware of it.

    Central control is not the way humanity, left to it's own devices, organizes itself. Centralized systems try to limit the natural peering we do to focus people for some particular end (closed countries and economies, corporate officers determining the company direction, jobs period limit us and what we do and who we talk to) and it's neither good or bad. Unrestricted peering is an unfocused haze of not much getting done. People spend a lot of time dealing with things that don't further any specific agenda. Focus requires limits on what we do, and not much good has happened in this world without a lot of people focused on it.

    However, even then the most it can do is limit it. Sometimes to a very strong degree (like North Korea) but even then the peering happens and communication and commerce happens outside that central control. People get smuggled out of North Korea to freedom in South Korea despite the efforts of the most draconian regime on the planet. People get smuggled into Western nations as slaves (for sex, sweatshop work, or whatnot) despite the abolishment of slavery, tough laws, and seemingly almost universal abhorrence of the practice. If centralized control was the way people actually worked, this kind of stuff would be pretty much impossible.
  • tired (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @06:42PM (#9457720) Homepage Journal
    Negroponte is a windbag. Every one of his "endpaper" essays for Wired mag in the bubble was wrong, or superfluously obvious. Then his cashin _Being Digital_, retreading the most obvious. So maybe he's right about P2P - but by the time he's praising it, it's no longer "News" to nerds.

  • By contrast, social systems are top-down and hierarchical, from which we draw the basic assumption that organization and order can only come from centralism.

    That's a simplification.

    Like nature, social systems can come in a variety of kinds, whether strictly hierarchal or peer-to-peer.

    Sufficient organization and order to get the job done is demonstrated in swarms and flocks.

    Likewise, in my own human body there are a variety of cells that interact in different degrees of hierarchy depending on the funct

  • The biggest gaff during John's N. series of columns in Wired and the Being Digital book is that he missed predicting the explosive rise the World Wide Web, browser technology, and e-commerce. It was happening right under his nose, but he was too wrapped up in own pet ideas.

"Love may fail, but courtesy will previal." -- A Kurt Vonnegut fan

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