Suzanne Treister

Networks in Reverse
From the Interplanetary Internet via the ARPANET to the Last Pre-Internet Moment

This work exists independently in 3 forms, as a text, a video work and a performance.

Text published in:
Networks, Edited by Lars Bang Larsen, Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art, published by MIT Press 2014
Social Medium: Artists Writing, 2000–2015. Edited by Jennifer Liese. Published by Paper Monument, Brooklyn, NY, USA. 2016

Video HD 15:57 mins

Networks in Reverse
From the Interplanetary Internet via the ARPANET to the Last Pre-Internet Moment

Vinton G. Cerf, U.S. Internet pioneer, Google's Chief Internet Evangelist and creator of the Interplanetary Internet, was pacing around his lab at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. Concerned that the Interplanetary Internet had been incurring large delays and errors in communication due to the increasing distances involved, he scratched at his grey beard as he read the latest bulletin from The Daily Tech on the screen of his console.

'NASA Plans Hack-proof "Interplanetary Internet" for Use in Mars, Moon Missions. Architectures should be cost effective, extensible and sustainable in a flat and/or decreasing budget environment'

Over the following months signal degradation set in across the IPN network and as a result the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) held a conference to resolve the issue. The following day they released the news that they were pulling funding from the IPN project.

Subsequently all space probes and satellites which had served as Net gateways, conveying data packets to and from Earth and among themselves were retasked. Vint Cerf's dream of a collaborative, stable backbone of satellites serving as IPN's nucleus was eradicated.

With funding freed up from interplanetary communications, DARPA now had more than adequate finance for its DARWARS military simulation game training project. In their own words: "Continuous online, mission-level training. Cognitive training systems that include elements of human-tutor interactions and the emotional involvement of computer games coupled with the feedback of Combat Training Center learning. Using the example of commercial, persistent, massive multiplayer online games, the program will link these new training approaches with existing Service and Joint training systems into a self-sustaining architecture, allowing continuous on-demand training anywhere, anytime, for everyone."

DARWARS' primary architecture developer was the military subcontractor Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN) Technologies, who had led a wide range of research and development projects including the U.S. military's 'Boomerang' mobile shooter detection system; quantum information processing; 'Natural Communication with Avatars Through Speech and Gesture' technology; and the standardisation effort for Internet security architecture (IPsec).

After several years in operation and many round table discussions DARWARS was decommissioned by the US Government. The decision had no tangible effect on the average person in the street. The territorial network for civilians was still the Intercloud, the interconnected global Cloud of Clouds, an extension of the Internet network of networks, one global interconnected database. Housed in multiple data warehouses across the globe the Intercloud facilitated access to all 'available' data, no matter which Cloud corporation you happened to subscribe to for your data storage, network communications and apps.

Led by a broad coalition of industry practitioners, corporations, associations and other key stakeholders, including the U.S. Department of Defense, eBay, Google, Amazon and assorted telephone companies, security analytics professionals and arms manufacturers, the concept of a Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) was born at the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) CISO Forum in Las Vegas. The CSA was a non-profit organisation formed to promote the use of best practices for providing security assurance within Cloud Computing, and provide education on the uses of Cloud Computing to help secure all other forms of computing.

When, despite best efforts, secure transmission between individual data warehouses became increasingly problematic, the architectures of the Cloud and the Intercloud were gradually abandoned. For the time being, however, Internet governance bodies remained in place.

Governance that shaped uses of the Internet had been overseen by several, for the most part, U.S. controlled entities. United Nations World Summits on the Information Society were held where the U.S. Department of Commerce had made it clear that it intended to retain control of the Internet's root servers indefinitely.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was a U.S. non-profit corporation founded by Jon Postel in California which controlled and managed the Internet's Infrastructure. Vinton Cerf was chairman of the board of ICANN during the first decade.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) was the body that oversaw global IP address allocation, autonomous system number allocation, root zone management in the Domain Name System (DNS), media types, and other Internet Protocol-related symbols and numbers. IANA was operated by ICANN. Prior to the establishment of ICANN for this purpose, IANA was administered primarily by Jon Postel at the Information Sciences Institute of the University of Southern California, under a contract USC/ISI had with the United States Department of Defense, until ICANN was created to assume the responsibility under a United States Department of Commerce contract.

The Internet Society (ISOC) was an international, non-profit organization founded to provide direction in Internet related standards, education, and policy. It stated that its mission was "to assure the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world". Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn and Lyman Chapin released a document, announcing ISOC, which explained the rationale for establishing the Internet Society. ISOC had offices near Washington, DC, USA, and in Geneva, Switzerland. It had a membership base comprising more than 80 organisational and more than 28,000 individual members. Members also formed "chapters" based on either common geographical location or special interests. There were more than 90 chapters around the world.

ISOC conducted a great range of activities under three main categories, namely standards, public policy, and education. Under the standards category, ISOC supported and promoted the work of the standards settings bodies for which it was the organisational home: the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG), and the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF). ISOC also sought to promote understanding and appreciation of the Internet model of open, transparent processes and consensus-based decision making.

One of the most powerful commercial online players, Google Inc., the American multinational public corporation, was heavily invested in Internet search, cloud computing, and advertising technologies. After many years of successful enterprise, a series of failed lawsuits caused Google to descend slowly into liquidation. One by one Google systematically scaled down its operations, closing its acquisitions, internal sectors and online applications formerly known as Google Earth, Google Chrome, Gmail, Google Street View, Google Books, its video -sharing site YouTube, Google files on worldwide Genetic data, and finally its algorithmic personally targeted advertising services for third party websites. All other online corporations and multinationals eventually followed suit. The satellite which had provided Google with high-resolution imagery for Google Earth was returned to Vandenberg Air Force Base on the same day as Google deleted the entire known Web from its database. The company's unofficial slogan, coined by Google engineer Paul Buchheit, "Don't be evil" was relegated to history books, chipped mugs and T shirts.

As a consequence of this cyber cataclysm, all corporate owned social and professional networking sites, e.g. Facebook, Bebo, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, Nexopia, Bebo, Hyves, StudiVZ, iWiW, Tuenti, Tagged, XING, Badoo, Skyrock, Orkut and Hi5, Friendster, Mixi, Multiply, Wretch, Cyworld, simultaneously shut down and millions of gigabytes of user data became dead code in abandoned data warehouses.

The Googleplex site at Mountain View, California slowly fell into disrepair, developing the look of an ex world's fair ground and inevitably becoming a tourist attraction which was soon served by a retro-hippy bus tour company from San Francisco. Nearby the National Science Foundation (NSF), together with DARPA and NASA, were winding up the Digital Library Initiative, refusing a grant application to Stanford University, with the result that two graduate students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin abandoned developing a search engine using the links between Web pages as a ranking method.

Due to closure of all web based economies and loss of a cooperative backdoor entry for Governments and the CIA, the U.S. National Security Agency's PRISM, TIA and other such data surveillance projects were abandoned, the U.S. Cyber Command program was decommissioned and funds were no longer available for the numerous Internet governance bodies.

What had become known as Net War or Info War and its associated terrorist and anonymous networks, networked revolution, the activities of civil society activists and hacktivists gradually ceased to function. Likewise, swarming attacks, info leaking, attacks on financial, transport, power and food supply systems, spying on and subversion of industrial systems, awareness raising, evasion of government censors and monitors, collective action organising and decentralised network structures began to dwindle to a halt in the digital realm.

Online grassroots networks disappeared one after the other. Nettime, a discussion mailing list for networked cultures, politics and tactics, was abolished by Geert Lovink; The WELL was abandoned by Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant, and the so called 'new media' festivals and conferences which had sought, encouraged and represented the engagement of artists, writers and theorists in new technologies and the politics of the Net, became redundant. Evangelical Net communities living in disparate and often marginalised parts of the globe, who had come together through listservs and euphoric fantasies for the potential of an Internet based global change for the better, for empowerment and border free communication for the politically disenfranchised and the war torn, became disillusioned.

Pretty soon Vint Cerf closed down the Internet Society, and the US National Science Foundation closed the Internet to commercial use. Months later the text based virtual space 'Lambdamoo' finally went offline and The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), a U.S. Department of Defense funded project which had pioneered the early Internet, resumed its operations.

At CERN in Geneva Tim Berners Lee disabled communications between all HTTP clients and servers via the Internet and dismantled the World Wide Web.

At around the same time Jon Postel, Paul Mockapetris and Craig Partridge redesigned the Domain Name System (DNS), removing all domain names ending in .edu .gov .com .mil .org .net and .int.

The DCA combined MILNET with ARPANET where at the time there were 68 nodes on ARPANET, and 45 on MILNET, the military network and Vint Cerf replaced Barry Leiner at DARPA managing the Internet.

Leonard Kleinrock held the key mathematical background to packet switching and an ARPANET network was re-established between Kleinrock's lab at UCLA and Douglas Engelbart's lab at SRI and the initial 4-node network was reconnected with UC Santa Barbara and the University of Utah.

Vinton G. Cerf went on to work in Kleinrock's data packet networking group at UCLA that connected the first 2 nodes of ARPANET, then went back to work at IBM before returning to Stanford.

Robert Elliot Kahn, who had invented Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP) with Vint Cerf and written, 'Host to IMP Spec. 1822' at BBN which detailed the interface between ARPANET host computers and the Interface Message Processors, returned via MIT to his position at the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, AT&T.

Lawrence Roberts, the first Information Processing Technologies Office (IPTO) chief scientist, began design of ARPANET, upon becoming Director of IPTO.

Robert W. Taylor who had conceived of and directed funding for ARPANET and who with J. C. R. Licklider had written, 'The Computer as a Communication Device', the paper which led to the creation of ARPANET, returned from his new role as Director of IPTO at ARPA to work for NASA. Taylor decided to leave ARPA after congress pushed for it to focus its work towards advancing military missions during the Vietnam War, because his mission was for the technology to be available to all.

Ivan Sutherland took over as head of IPTO at ARPA and was shortly replaced by J. C. R. Licklider. Licklider, known for his work in Artificial Intelligence and cybernetics, dissuaded Sutherland, Taylor and Roberts from developing the Internet.

Suzanne Treister 2013


Reading at Adelaide Festival 2014 with introduction by Lars Bang Larsen Podcast

The Time Complex
, Yerevan Biennial 2020-2021, Yerevan, Armenia
online (1 October 2020 - 10 January 2021)


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