Future

Making The Case To Rebuild The Internet From Scratch

How can the Internet run more efficiently? A growing number of experts say so-called "band-aid" fixes are insufficient -- and the entire system of communication needs to be rebooted.

Back to square one
Solveig Godeluck

PARIS – Videos that take hours to load on a computer; companies fending off hacking attempts; inboxes filled with spam; users that are a little too anonymous for some governments; a network that is too U.S.-centric for Beijing…

These are just some of the reasons that researchers, companies and countries want to change the Internet.

Some companies have already developed a “layer” over the Internet for their own purposes. Skype has high quality demands for voice and video communication and Akamai offers to speed up their clients’ flow through its own network.

In fact, several research teams around the world are working on this issue. In the U.S. there is the National Science Foundation’s FIND project, as well as the GENI and RINA projects. Europe has FIRE, funded by Brussels. China and Japan are in the race too. They all have opposing interests but they do agree on one thing: A network designed for a few hundred scientists cannot be expected to meet the same requirements as a vortex sucking in more than 2.4 billion users -- especially when these users connect from multiple devices, do online commerce, and perform surgical operations remotely.

Some researchers actually want to start over with a “clean slate.” John Day, director of the RINA project in Boston, is one of the advocates of this solution. They want to replace the 30-year-old TCP/IP protocol developed by Internet co-founders Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn.

The Internet is no longer a network of networks, but a single big network. In the 1980s, while many companies were creating private networks but the U.S. government released its free, open-source TCP/IP protocol and froze the initiatives that could have led to a thriving Internet -- an Internet that would have developed slower but would have been more secure, according to Day.

Design flaw

Day wants to fix a fundamental design flaw: On the Internet, IP addresses confuse identity and location. In other words, we give addresses to machines, not actual people. What may seem like a minor detail isn’t. For instance, it makes the network less “redundant” -- whereas the Internet was in fact created to provide this type of redundancy -- side roads that can be taken in case the main communication road is blocked.

Today, whenever a company registers with two different Internet Service Providers for security or budget reasons, it will be assigned two separate IP address ranges. If they were merged under one single denomination, we would have a better chance of contacting them. This IP address problem results in all sorts of constraints: allocation of network resources, mobility management…

“If we start over with a clean slate, we could decide to identify contents or services instead of machines, it would be a complete paradigm shift,” says Kave Salamatian, professor of computer science at the French University of Savoie. This would be in the best interest of companies like Google. Whereas they are currently forced to negotiate with telecom providers to locate content servers in their facilities, this could grant them independence. Needless to say ISPs are less enthusiastic.

“Today on the Internet, everything is changing: on the top layer, the apps; in the infrastructure, the 4G and fiber-optic technology. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the IP protocol,” says Salamatian.

On the other hand, he says, we can still continue to apply "band-aids" on the IP. Stephane Bortzmeyer, R&D engineer at France’s domain name administration (AFNIC), believes that the band-aids will prevail, because the “clean slate” underestimate the weight of the existing system.

“We already have so many problems with the deployment of IPv6 – the solution to the shortage of IP addresses in the original Internet – that I can’t even imagine how they could build what would not be a new Internet, but a whole new network!” he says.

Band-aids already exist, such as the BCP 38 standard developed to stop IP address spoofing. But ISPs don’t use it, he explains: “They don’t want to pay for it since it is other companies that will benefit from it.”

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Ideas

Reading Rumi In Kabul: A Persian Poet's Lesson For Radical Islam

Born some eight centuries ago, the famed poet and philosopher Rumi offered ideas on religion that bear little resemblance to the brand of Islam being imposed right now in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime.

The work of 13th-century poet Rumi still resonsates today

Mihir Chitre

Among the various Afghan cities that the Taliban has invaded and apparently "reclaimed" in recent weeks is Balkh, a town near the country's north-western border. Interestingly, it was there, about 800 years ago, that a man called Jalal ad-Din Mohammad Balkhi, better known as Rumi, was born.

Some see the grotesque exhibitionism of the Taliban advance as a celebration of Islam or a "going back to the roots" campaign. As if followers of Islam were always like this, as if every willing Muslim always propagated austerity and oppressiveness. As if it was always meant to be this way and any shred of liberalism was a digression from the quest of the religion.

In fact, a look at the history of the religion — and of the region — tells a different story, which is why there's no better time than now to rediscover the wisdom of the poet Rumi, but without doing away with its religious context.


In a world where Islam is a popular villain and lots of terrible acts across the world in the name of the religion have fueled this notion among the West and among people from other religions, it's paramount that we understand the difference between religion as a personal or spiritual concept and religion as an institution, a cage, a set of laws created to control us.

Why do you stop praying?

To begin with, and largely due to the film Rockstar, the most famous Rumi quote known to Indians goes like this: "Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there's a field. I'll meet you there."

Rumi's original Persian verse, however, uses the words kufr (meaning infidelity) and Imaan (meaning religion), which was translated as "wrongdoing" and "rightdoing." To me, the original verse surpasses the translation with a vital, often missed, often deliberately forgotten, interpretation, which is to highlight the fact that there is humanity, love and compassion or a certain kind of mystical quality to life beyond the concept of religion and that is the ultimate place, the place where Rumi invites us to meet him.

It would be incorrect now to read this and think of Rumi as irreligious. In fact, he was quite the opposite. But his interpretation of religion was personal, spiritual and not institutional or communal or exhibitionist.

In one of his poems, translated by Coleman Banks as "Love Dogs" in English, a man who has stopped praying to God because he never got a response meets "Khidr," an angel messenger, in his dream:

Why did you stop praising (or praying)?

Because I've never heard anything back.

This longing you express is the return message.

To me, through this poem, it's clear that Rumi advocates for a personal relationship with God. In fact, he goes on to say that being true to God is to long for his validation or nod, that life is longing.

A copy of Rumi's spiritual couplets at the Mevl\u00e2na Museum in Konya, Turkey

A copy of Rumi's spiritual couplets at the Mevlâna Museum in Konya, Turkey — Photo: Georges Jansoone/Wikimedia

Don't sweep the history of Islam with the broom of radicalism

For those familiar with the European literature of the 20th century, I could say that this echoes the ideas of Samuel Beckett. But remember: Rumi lived 800 years ago, at the heart of what we call the "Muslim world." To equate Islam on the whole with repressiveness and hostility, as many of us do today, might just be a criminal contradiction then.

It's also interesting to note that after the Quran, Rumi's is probably the most widely read work in the Islamic world, which suggests that Rumi's ideas, which may sound too progressive for anyone remotely associated with Islam in today's world, have, in fact, been accepted and cherished by the Islamic world for centuries. Sweeping the whole history of the Islamic world with the broom of radicalism wouldn't then be the fairest assessment of either the religion or of radicalism.

This physical world has no two things alike.
Every comparison is awkwardly rough.
You can put a lion next to a man,
but the placing is hazardous to both.

(From the poem: "An Awkward Comparison")

It's tragic that the Taliban has ravaged the same place with their own power-hungry, totalitarian interpretation of the religion which once produced a mind that embraces it with wide arms of warmth and peace and refuses to be compared with other followers of the same.

How to cure bad habits?

It is vital for us to separate groupism or communalism, which often escalates to barbarism, from the thought it is based on. It is vital then to read and reread that what Rumi sees as religion is the private association with God. It is also vital to mark the emphasis on individuality in Rumi's thought.

All the Western ideas of liberalism are based on the idea of individuality, which in turn is based on post-renaissance European thought. Asian philosophy is contrasted with its Western counterpart in the fact that it is rooted in mysticism as opposed to individuality.

Islam itself has long had a tradition of mysticism that is known as Sufism. Sufism is a sort of an inward dimension of Islam, a practice that encourages a direct, personal connection with the divine, a spiritual proximity to the omniscient that transcends the physical world and temporarily subverts immediate reality.

Sufism is the quest for the truth of love and knowledge, without necessarily always distinguishing between the two. Rumi was known as the Mevlana (Maulana) and his poetic collection Masnavi meaning "the spiritual couplets" is known as the Persian Quran. He was no doubt a mystic, a Sufi, and one who strongly endorsed the personal, for the most intimately individual is the truly spiritual.

Rumi might remain unparalleled in not just the Islamic world but also in the world of philosophy and poetry across the globe. Another thing that he will remain is dead. The Taliban, on the other hand, at least for now, looks rampant and alive.

It is now up to us, the other people who are alive, and the ones who are going to be born — not just Muslims but everyone else as well — to choose which interpretation of Islam we uphold or react to, how we read history, and what we borrow from it.

How to cure bad water? Send it back to the river.
How to cure bad habits? Send me back to you.

(From the poem: "My Worst Habit")

I think what we, as a world, need now more than ever is to be sent back to Rumi.

https://thewire.in/culture/re-reading-rumi-in-the-time-of-the-taliban
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