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So way back in the day, I used to watch Phil of the Future, and he mentioned a device that replaced the thing that replaced the thing that killed The Internet.

So that got me thinking, of what kind of device would be capable of killing (superseding) The Internet. At last I've thought of a device that could conceivably do just that, except I run into problems that the internet has already solved to some extent, but the solutions don't apply to my situation... demonstrating would probably be easier...

So, here's the scenario: The schematics of a device that can send and receive visible light on an infinite number of subspace channels are now publicly known. These devices are portable, self powering (actually through an internal solar panel portal combination), allow for communication faster than light, and could be made in a variety of sizes, and maybe even integrated into laptops.

The sending and receiving sides can be programmed to different channels, and like I said, there is no limit to the channels, so for those familiar with cryptography, it would be a simple matter for Alice and Bob to randomly generate keypairs and listen on a channel corresponding to their public key and talk with each other. If they had some other means to communicate the keys...

The problem is that as soon as someone knows the channel you're listening on, they could flood it with light to drown out any other signal, or fill it with random light to make any other signal unintelligible.

Anyone can send and receive on any channel, but channels can become "noisy" somewhat like WiFi, but I can't really see a good way to make an internet-like structure on top of it.

So here are my questions. How can Alice and Bob share their keys initially? Channel 1 would probably be more than overwhelmed with others trying to do just that. How can they prevent the equivalent of DOS attacks (the light problem above)?

Also as an aside in the comments, can anyone see any other inherent problems with this? I'll add them as they come up if I think they would cause problems.

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    $\begingroup$ In what way would this supersede the internet? To anyone using it, it would still be the internet, just with different underlying hardware making your physical location irrelevant to how quick your connection is. $\endgroup$ – Rob Watts Sep 20 '16 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ Can channels interfere with each other? Could enough noise on channel 5 interfere with channel 6? Or is there a channel 5.5 that could potentially interfere with both channels 5 and 6? Also, what degree of infinite are we talking about? Countably infinite? Uncountably infinite? (If you're not familiar with those terms, think of it as the difference between whole numbers and all real numbers. You can count the whole numbers starting with 1, 2, 3, and continuing on forever, but you can't count all of the numbers between 0 and 1.) $\endgroup$ – Rob Watts Sep 20 '16 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ Good questions. For some points I haven't decided yet, we'll say countably infinite unless for some reason uncountably infinite can solve some problems that the former can't. For now assume channels are whole numbers >= 0. There is no interference between channels though, and it's different from the internet in that your connection doesn't have to pass through any nodes. You can communicate directly from point A to point B. You wouldn't necessarily need an ISP. Though using an ISP may allow it to be shaped more like the internet with faster data links, I imagine that ISPs would become legacy. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Hendrix Sep 20 '16 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ How do you use light to communicate in a faster-than-light manner? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Sep 20 '16 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre As Cort Ammon has coined it, "The Box" uses subspace bubbles to transmit light faster than light. A larger one without any interference might conceivably be used between Earth and Mars to transmit Sign Language between people standing in front of it. (Like a box with a portal from Portal on it that you can't actually pass through) $\endgroup$ – Andrew Hendrix Sep 20 '16 at 19:44
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You wouldn't create an "internet like" structure on top of your creation (I'm going to call it "The Box"). The internet and its protocols are heavily influenced by the challenges of relaying information over the public wired networks of our day. The Box provides a completely different set of problems to solve, so the infrastructure would be markedly different.

Due to the broadcast-like behavior of The Box, you would likely be able to pick up prior art from the radio world. Radio has a lot of the same problems:

  • Noisy channels
  • Anyone can listen in on your channel
  • Anyone can broadcast, potentially swamping your channel
  • It can be hard to pin down who is disrupting a connection (though it's easier to do in RF than it would be with magical Boxes)

It seems one of the key questions for you is jamming, both intentional and unintentional. A channel is useless if it is crammed full of people flashing bright lights into their Box. I'd look at RF tools that are designed to make it harder for jamming to occur.

For unintentional jamming, consider sending the same signals on many channels at once. In RF communication, one tool that is often used are "gold codes" which are really fancy signals such that we can define one for each person, and each is "orthogonal" to the other, meaning if we sum up the signal over all of the samples, it is extremely unlikely that you'll obscure the signal completely with unintentional jamming. CDMA uses an approach similar to this in our cellphones today (3G in the USA, and some other countries). All of our cellphones are talking at once, but they communicate using a code which ensures they generally don't conflict with each other.

For intentional jamming, you may want to look at tools used by the military. An oldie-but-goodie is frequency hopping. At a predetermined rate, both parties change to a new channel. As long as an attacker cannot predict which channel they will swap to, it can be a very effective way to prevent jamming. There's other more modern approaches to this as well; feel free to research them.

As for the final question of actually making the link, why do everything on channel 1? We don't broadcast all of IP traffic on a single channel. Instead, we have a 32-bit IPv4 address, and a 16-bit port. These effectively spread the communications. If you were to append an address and port together, you could uniquely identify a new channel to do the initial "Hello!" on.

Once you've got that concept, things like DNS become a natural extension of the process, and you'll start seeing some of those internet like behaviors creeping in. Just handle the hardware-specific issues below that level, and the rest will build itself!

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  • $\begingroup$ So, what you're saying is that I don't need to worry about it? Here's essentially what I'm getting: Since a user can only use a box to broadcast to one channel, and listen to one channel, chain some together and listen on multiple channels if you want redundancy, DNS like services will crop up and people will be able to find each other that way. Facebook could just have 1000 input ports, and you jump between them as necessary, making sure it knows your return connection to send things to. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Hendrix Sep 20 '16 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ @AndrewHendrix Yeah, I wouldn't worry about the benign case (accidental interference), because we have lots of tools to create very effective redundant systems. Intentional interference is a bit more difficult, but the solutions to intentional abuse tend to arise from the specifics of the implementation. The internet prevents abuse at the nodes of their fiber links. HAM radios prevent abuse using directional antennas to find abusers. Your system will have its own solutions, but generally speaking, basic anti-jamming will work anywhere. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Sep 20 '16 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe I'll just add some sort of triangulating ability so that users broadcasting on a particular channel can be tracked to some extent and just treat it like some kind of Future Radio. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Hendrix Sep 20 '16 at 21:34
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Your device (still The Box) won't kill the internet, it simply replaces the transport layer of it. Since your transport layer is broadcast to all, you have a situation sort of like satellite communications. Anyone can listen to the downlink side, or even the uplink side if they care to. Modem to modem communications could be established by a variety of methods, for example using an MPEG transport stream with DVB-S. There is no problem with current technology to achieve secure comms over such a system (at least that is what Big Brother wants you to think).

The IP layer would probably not have to be changed, and application layer would be completely unchanged.

But the point is, the 'Internet' as the users experience it would not be changed. More people get internet access now through cellular technology than they do through modems. That wasn't the case in 2000, and everybody needed a landline telephone to get access in 1990. So while the internet that you know and love is basically the same, except with better graphics and free-er porn, the transport layer is mostly different from 15 years ago and completely different from 25 years ago.

In order to really 'kill the internet' you need a whole different paradigm. Instead of unit to unit communication using TCP/IP streams to transfer data you need.....something else? I can come up with two options on short notice.

First, and here is where your device comes in handy, if broadcast bandwidth was infinite, content providers (like say Netflix, Twitter, or ESPN) could constantly broadcast an infinite volume of encrypted information. If you pay for a user-system, you could then descramble and capture a subset of that content for your consumption. This would be much more like television...but corporations are hugely incentivized to go to this route so they get their money from more reliable subscriptions and not less reliable advertising.

Second would be a system where consciousness was directly connected to a transport layer, so you could directly communicate thoughts instead of pictures or words. Here the engineering challenge would be one of privacy and filtering. While just thinking about something could make it happen for you, you would be also concerned about sharing your thoughts with people you didn't want.

Thats all I got, good luck.

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I think the main problem with your device is "visible light". Light is just a range of electromagnetic frequency. So in short, highly corruptible and... basically is just "the modern internet", but more easily blocked by standing objects.

The structure of the internet probably wouldn't change too much. There are 2 things that would replace the internet. Better tech for the job (like quantum entanglement to cut out the use of satellites), and tech that supersede the need for an internet (like having the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy available on the device you are on so that your questions get answered before you even connect to the internet)

And in the episode you mention, I imagine Google bought out the internet, and then the internet got replaced with Google-Sheri, Which got replaced by Google Knowledge base embedded into everyone's smart devices.

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  • $\begingroup$ You can already download all of wikipedia to a phone if you have enough storage space. That's practically our hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy right there. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Hendrix Sep 28 '16 at 16:24
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Spread spectrum transmission. Channels are infinite right? Alice and Bob both have a good pseudorandom number generator with the same seed ( unguessable but both sides get the same number each time). Assume each frequency can be denoted by or mapped to a number. Shift frequency every tenth of a second (randomize that too if you like) now your attacker must flood an infinite number of channels which takes an infinite amount of energy. This tactic actually works pretty well with our very limited EM spectrum -- even better the more spectrum you give it. Then use normal transmission control retransmits to retry anything transmitted on a noisy channel. (Use more aggressive retransmits in very noisy situations) You can use existing wifi spread spectrum technology for the frequency hopping, and noise abatement, regular tcp/ip for retransmits and single digit percentage loss and everything else as you normally would. Use your asymmetric key encryption on top just in case someone is able to suss out a pattern and start recording/reconstructing your transmissions. Oh and sign me up for your beta program. I'll take two. P.S. Are transmissions traceable? If so it might be necessary to build a bunch of shared routing nodes. Identity protection would require randomized routing so an attacker can't derive distance and direction from incoming signals. Onion routing too if the nodes are untrustworthy.

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This is no different from WiFi or mobile phone base stations, backed-boned by a wired network

What you have described is essentially radio, without that annoying limiting factor: bandwidth. So any practical problem you have with radio, you have with this, with the exception of bandwidth and — therefore — bitrate limitations.

Assuming our usual players, we must immediately make the following limitation:

  • Mallory cannot transmit on infinite number of channels at the same time.

If Mallory could do that, i.e. the equivalent of a spark-gap transmitter, then the network is screwed... there is no way to get around that. So we assume Mallory must be in some way limited.

Having established that, we need to set a few rules:

  • A channel equals a binary number. After all: it is computers that will do the communicating for you so you need to represent your channel in binary.
  • Any one channel can only be transmitted on by one actor at the time. If two or more transmit on the same channel, the transmissions are ruined. You can detect that there is activity, but the data is garbled , i.e. a collision.
  • Anyone can listen to any channel they have enumerated i.e. sockets. And you will know which socket you received a message on.
  • If two devices are physically co-located, or connected by a physical data channel (i.e. fiber/wire), they can establish a set of private channels that Mallory cannot compromise, at least not all at the same time. Having established these channels you can move them apart/disconnect them from the wire, and they will still be equivalent of them being physically connected all the time.

Now we can set up "base stations" and "routers" that network with each other in a secure manner, no different from a Wifi or cellphone network backed by a regular wired network today. Anyone that wants to use the network connect to the nearest base station, whose public channel numbers are based on their physical location and a publicly known salt. Over those public channels each user negotiate a private channel with the base station and then take it from there.

In case that station is compromised by an attack, the user devices start connecting to nearby stations in a wider and wider area until they find one that works, and even though the surrounding networks temporarily experience a higher load as users from the compromised cell do their negotiations there instead of directly with the base station, this is manageable. Once the users have managed to connect to the compromised station they are unaffected by the attack. The compromised station can output new public salts and thus force Mallory to adapt or give up.

So, what we have now is just the same as WiFi or a cell phone network, backed by the Internet, with more channels and easier re-routing in case a station goes down... a kind of Hyper-WiFi. This means that any methods we employ today to make WiFi work will work on the Hyper-WiFi. Hence Alice and Bob can negotiate a channel number over the Hyper-WiFi network in a normal manner, and then set up their own private channel.

The only question here is how powerful you make Mallory. How to defend the Hyper-Wifi network depends entirely on how powerful Mallory is.

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