Chapter 3

The first internet wars were inconclusive. Whole swaths of the network would get shut down, rearranged, and appear for brief periods of time. New services would pop up and then disappear in the seeming blink of an eye. Jim remembered these not as the tumultuous time experienced by most people but a time of brilliant creativity when the new web, his web, was being born.

He already had the perfect refuge and was feeling more comfortable with the people in the coop, Steve, Randi, and a few others. They were making contact with other groups throughout the world who were on the same wavelength, and best, the system was actually working in the decentralized way it was designed to do.

Those first members of the coop initiated the first cohort of learners from the rank and file of the Salvation Army and other similar organizations for the downtrodden, offering them something better in many cases, than would have been available in the Ivy League. So much more for the fact that because of the network blackouts it would often be the case that the commercial web was down, while this new decentralized server-less web was up and running.

This was not the dark web that Jim was building for, but a new much more equitable web. He would base his system on a new education blockchain that would run off a new derivative of Bitcoin, called EduCoin. EduCoin had in fact been created back in 2014 but went into disuse, ready for him to scoop it up for the system, and would ultimately prove the source of his wealth, but that would be much later.

Jim and his posse would work where they could, in tattered rooms at the shelters, off of McDonald’s wifi, in the various subsidized apartments that clients of the shelters had graduated to.

And this was not uncommon for the great movement he was creating. It tended to attract highly iconoclastic semi-loner programmers who had somehow been damaged by the conventional corporate world, or whatever local version of it was attached to software development in their respective countries. People’s whose talent at programming surpassed both their social skills and their ability to give true meaning to their own lives, so they were looking for some direction and Jim’s charisma (his day program rants were now taped and broadcast during the blackouts) served as their beacon.

Some of the earliest curriculum of the system had to do with the system itself. It taught basic programming skills so as to expand the developer pool available. This was often a laborious process as many early initiates had barely finished high school, let alone contribute to an elaborate AI/VR/AR LMS. But Jim insisted on following great open source models like WordPress and Linux itself, to create a self-sustaining system.

A second prong of the system was its curriculum. This was tricky and Jim had to do many, at the time, unethical moves to get this working properly. Jim premised his tactics that he was more of a non-profit doing ethical work like Robin Hood. It would just ingest books and journals and any academic content and make this available to the user in any convenient form they wanted, onscreen, on an e-reader, in video formats of some kind. Moreover, the genius of the system is that once all this content was liberated, the ease of use of referencing it in derivative work was amazing and would allow a true exploration of the shape of things.

A lot of this was highly illegal but Jim figured even Google had started in the grey zone downloading a copy of the web to analyze it, that once the system had grown strong enough laws and attitudes would change. That copyright was the child of the printing press, while true peer-to-peer generalized AI, along with its visualization possibilities just brought too much to the table to be stuck in old silos of organization.

Because Jim thought this was it really allowed the system to flourish on the back channels and become much more robust than anything offered on the commercial web. It was a beginning.

In those days when the commercial internet was out the Canadian and American governments would more often then not declare martial law. Most nuclear households would be pretty helpless and would also have to adhere to a curfew. Too much had grown reliant on the internet and without it, things like shopping for food, going to see the doctor, or even driving your car became too dangerous.

Today was one of those days.

“Jim, the other network’s out, time to get busy,” Randi said.

“Ya, so here’s what we’re planning, we need to upload a few terabytes to the system and with the commercial net down, this is our opportunity.”

Since both systems ran on the same wires when one was out, the other grew more robust, so it was during these blackout phases that Jim and his crew were busiest.

They were working from the main foyer of the Salvation Army in Ottawa. The building had grown more fortified since the beginning of the first internet wars as the organization as a whole had grown more militant. It kept to its core mission of proselytizing, while seeing to the needs of the needy. But the leaders of the Salvation Army recognized the new reality it was working under and it was looking for allies.

One of its staff, James, had noticed the huge bandwidth that would be used whenever Jim and his cronies were there on their laptops and suspected they were involved heavily in the network activity that was shutting off the commercial Web.

James called Jim into his office.

“What’s this about,” said Jim.

“Don’t think we are oblivious to what you have going on here,” James.

“Oh yeah, and what’s that James. We are all clients of the Sally Anne and have all the rights accorded to us thusly.”

“Hold on Jim, no real worries. We are just looking for a way to keep running this place during the blackouts and thought you might be the one to help.

Jim thought about this deeply. Until now the Salvation Army had been social housing for them, that’s it. His interaction with the staff was minimal. They left him and his compatriots alone to do their work and provided for them like the downtrodden needy jobless sacks that they were. This would cross a line, forming an alliance with them, but it would keep their systems running during the blackouts and it was on the Salvation Army’s system’s that Jim was creating his monster.

“Do you know what P2P is James?”

Jim had imagined what his movement would be like if it got the backing of the Salvation Army, especially during these times of martial law and curfews and such, but he hesitated as it was giving them keys to the golden palace, or so he thought. The computer power him and his fellow ne’er do wells was astounding by now, for those unaffiliated with any corporate faction, and this would be tipping the scales decidedly in favour of Salvation Army’s mission, which was a bit out of sorts with his. Their’s was a religious mission still steeped in the Old and New Testaments and redemption through Jesus Christ, his was a secular redemption through mass education of everyone on the planet regardless of belief. It would be a culture clash that would cause great rifts as the internet wars played out and his vision gradually came to dominate.


Silenced Copyright © by Jonathan Wexler. All Rights Reserved.