Sunday, April 9, 2017

Time for a Digital Galt's Gulch?

Galt's Gulch

In Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, the "creative" people of the world go on strike and retire to a hidden valley called Galt's Gulch. A real world version of Atlas shrugging is pretty unlikely. The people who would go there have corner offices and flunkies fawning over them. And loads of power sex. What are these people going to do in Galt's Gulch? Sit on the porch and whittle? And even if they do drop out, there are a hundred equally capable people waiting in line behind them eager to take their jobs. They won't be missed. And that, as much as anything, will deter them from dropping out - their superfluity will be starkly revealed.

The really creative people will go on working in their labs and computer terminals and machine shops. Because what motivates creative people is the chance to do something creative. They'll probably be happier than ever when all the self-described "creative" people move to Galt's Gulch.

On the other hand, a digital Galt's Gulch might be just what the world needs to clean up the Augean Stables of the internet. A separate internet, which anyone can view but where the ability to contribute to it is strictly controlled. Anyone with privileges on the new internet can still post on the old one. Call them Internet 1 and Internet 2. If the Dark Net can run on the same system as everything else but be hard to access, there's no reason we can't build an Internet 2 the same way.

Paying For It

Obviously any such Internet 2 will cost money. There are a lot of reasons it should be on a subscription basis. Independent funding would help keep it free of government meddling. Much more importantly, it would be possible to ban advertising. Most important of all, having to have some serious skin it the game would help deter the denizens of the slimier corners of the internet. For openers, I suggest $100 per year. 

Remember, there will still be an Internet 1. Anyone who can't afford to get onto Internet 2 can still post their rants and cat videos on Internet 1.

There is, of course, a lot of money to be made by allowing "trusted advertisers" to have access to the net, or purchase user information. So the by-laws have to specify in exquisite detail that no such practices are permitted, as well as making modification or repeal of the restrictions all but impossible. A super-majority of all users might be one way. Every subscriber gets a non-transferrable vote.


Well, this one is simple. None. Every post identifies the real name of the author. If you want to create a dozen accounts, subscribe a dozen times. But every account will identify you by name.

This isn't Tor. If you want to take down a regime from within, stick to Internet 1. If you want to be snarky about your boss or neighbor, Internet 1. If you want to post something controversial, well, if you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen. But, we also need very strict rules about abuse, retaliation, threats and so on. Any action that contributes to retaliation beyond the confines of Internet 2 costs you your privileges. Send a nasty personal e-mail, bye-bye. 

Any attempt to use Tor or other re-routing systems to conceal your identity gets you banned. Any spoofing gets you banned.


Since there's no anonymity, no report of abuse is anonymous, either. Strict due process. If you report someone for abuse, you'd better be prepared to describe, explicitly and in detail, what's abusive about it. And if it's frivolous or retaliatory, you will be held accountable.

Who Can Join?

One place to start is that any member of a professional organization can join. A good practice would be to make subscribing to Internet 2 a regular part of the organizational dues. In addition to selecting various journals, members can also select a subscription to Internet 2.

All material posted to academic or government sites should automatically be archived on Internet 2. All tax-supported research should be archived as well.

After that, anyone else who agrees to the terms of service and pays for a subscription is in.


This point pertains to advertising as well, but since it's a security issue, too, no pop-up ads, and no content whatsoever that restricts the user's ability to view the page. No fade-outs, no queries about using ad blockers, no banners blocking the view, none of it. No insertion of anything onto a user's computer.

No release of personal data. None. No site on Internet 2 may require users to create an account. The only information Internet 2 should have are your identity plus some minimal authentication information, and of course, whatever you publish on your own.

No probing any site to see what a user is running. 


This one is easy. A professional organization can advertise its meetings and publications on its pages. A private author can plug his book. But no third party advertising of any sort. All income from third-party advertising (and any spam that leaks through) belongs to Internet 2.

Businesses? Why not? Tell us all about your new cars, your computer, your software, your dog food, your latest movie. On your own site. You just can't splash it onto someone else's pages.

Also, every page that invites a user to subscribe to a service must include a buttton on that page that allows the user to unsubscribe. Click and you're done. No ifs, ands or buts.