Balaji Srinivasan’s Network Union: a Potential Beacon of Freedom and Opportunity for the World

1 Access to the internet, free from government intrusion, is scarce in many parts of the world today

2 Balaji Srinivasan’s brilliant idea for a blockchain-based cloud network union (or even city, state, or country) has tremendous potential to help

3 Blockchain-based VPNs and other future technological innovations may also help

1

When Rihanna tweets, people pay attention. This past February, she tweeted asking why there wasn’t more attention being paid to India’s cutting off of internet access to millions amidst ongoing #FarmersProtests.

Her tweet received 937.2K likes, an astounding 161.3K comments —and a swift rebuke from several prominent members of the Indian government.

The squelching of dissent is rampant around the globeFreedom House found that merely 24% of us have access to the internet that’s largely free of government control. Freedom on the Net as well found that a whopping 2/3 of internet users live in countries where criticism of the government or military is subject to censorship.

Perhaps censorship is thriving over free expression in many parts of the world because collective activism via social media sometimes achieves results — in 2010, protests that were first organized via Facebook and Twitter managed to successfully compel the leader of Egypt to resign after 30 years of autocratic rule.

@Rihanna makes a good point, that perhaps many more of us in the free world should be talking a lot more about the lack of access to free internet the rest of the world over, on behalf of those who don’t have that same opportunity.

2

The brilliant Balaji S. Srinivasan has come up with an ingenious idea that sounds incredibly promising for addressing both the social problem of inattention, and the substantive problem of limited access to a free internet. It deserves serious consideration.

@BalajiS points out that it would be possible to stack existing technologies to create something even better than the sum of its parts.

His idea for a network union in the cloud has three ground-breaking innovative aspects:

The first aspect would be the creation of an ERC-20 based social media network where all members would receive tokens upon joining. This would, among other things, allow the GDP (market cap) of the integrated cryptocurrency to be measured and displayed in real-time, serving as a show of legitimacy.

The second novel aspect would be for the network to have a larger purpose, codified as a social contract that all members with a desire to help would agree to when joining. Real-time measurement of membership numbers would serve to show backlinks of support for the cause.

The third unique aspect of Srinivasan’s idea would be for the founder of the network to also become its leader, such that people choosing to join the network would also be demonstrating acceptance of that leadership. This collective backlink support, approval, and endorsement would add competency to the network and to the leader, enhancing the leader’s bargaining power on the global stage.

In this way, the leader of the network union would not only have the clout of a social media influencer with hundreds of thousands of likes, but also the credibility and demonstrable founder competency that could potentially secure sit-downs at the bargaining table with corporations and states. Those sit-downs could then be used to address injustices and seek out improvements for those who so often don’t have the voice, means, or ability to get a seat at the table on their own.

3

Additional blockchain-based technology is in development that may also help to address the global issue of internet freedom in one other interesting way. There appear to be several companies that are developing blockchain-based VPNs that hold the promise of potentially being improvements to current technology at combatting government blocking, surveillance, and censorship of the internet.

Orchid Labs has come up with a product which appears to be something of a hybrid between a VPN and the TOR network, where people get paid for their excess bandwidth in exchange for allowing their devices to be used as a relay node.

A network union that’s more resistant to government meddling would not only allow a leader with legitimacy and competence to act on peoples’ behalf, it might also allow at least some people on the ground to get their stories out despite their government’s attempts at controlling the internet. This could potentially greatly improve the backlinks of support a leader would then have heading into negotiations on behalf of everybody else.

Human happiness and prosperity have been shown to have a positive correlation to the degree of freedom to which we’re afforded (see also Founding vs Inheriting, by Balaji S.). And no freedoms are arguably more precious than political freedom (eg. free speech), and economic freedom (eg. cryptocurrencies). Universal access to a free internet is an important and worthy goal — one that shouldn’t get so lost in the day-to-day internet that we need Rihanna to remind us of that fact.

Balaji Srinivasan’s network union could potentially help us all to focus on what really matters in life, help us all find greater purpose, and potentially help make a real difference to those in need—the world would be a better place with a network union in it.