“Father of the internet” Vint Cerf’s talk at Google LA Office

“Father of the internet” Vint Cerf’s talk at Google LA Office
Vinton Gray “Vint” Cerf, Google’s vice president and chief Internet evangelist, is often referred to as one of the father’s of the internet. He has received multiple honorary degrees and awards, two of the highest being the National Medal of Technology and National Medal of Freedom. Most significantly he co-designed the DoD TCP/IP with Bob Kahn at Stanford University.  This is the summary of Cerf’s talk on his visit to Google LA office this week.  This summary was written by Oszie Tarula.
Vint Cerf began his presentation about Internet Current Events telling us his story about how he received his title as Chief Internet Evangelist at Google. He joked about how he originally suggest his title be “Arch Duke”, but it did not fit within Google’s organization structure and the “Chief Internet Evangelist” was then suggested and approved. He joked about how in Russia he was asked if he believed in God, and his response was that he considers himself a “Geek Orthodox”.

He explained how the internet began as a project from the defense system and then passed over to the academic and science communities around the world. And how it was eventually taken from those institutions into the residences.

Users on the net
Cerf, then updated on the amount of users on the net by Continent. Asia has currently the most users with 1020 million, followed by Europe with 500 million, North America with 273.1 million, Latin America with 235.1 million, Mid-east with 77 million, Oceania with 23.9 million and africa with 140 million users. Numbers unimaginable at the time they were designing the first network systems.

The next update was on the IPv6, the latest version of the internet protocol which was launched world-wide on June 6, 2012. IPv6 was developed to replace IPv4, which ran out of addresses and to accommodate increasing number of internet enabled devices.

Domain Names
Mr. Cerf explained the implementation of internationalized domain names. The protocol for mapping unicode characters into ascii form. This allows for other non-Latin characters to be used as internet domain names.

He talked about new gTLD (Generic Top Level Domains). There were over 2,000 applications submitted to IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) for new gTLD’s. He mentioned how multiple companies requested the same gTLD and they are now sorting out who keeps those gTLDs. Each application cost $185,000 to submit, which resulted in over $350 million dollars.

Sensor Networks
Another interesting topic discussed was about sensors in smart grids. He explained on how by having sensors in these systems can allow us to track usage of electricity and manage grids more efficiently. He explained how electric companies and consumers know how much electricity was used, but not how it was used. Once the use is tracked then both consumers and providers can make decisions to make better use of these grids.

Information Sharing is Powerful
Mr. Cerf explained how powerful information sharing is, and used the Arab Spring as an example of how powerful information sharing is. He mentioned on how the sharing of information has the potential to bring democratization. 

He discussed how there are both uses and abuses of the system. And there should be consequences for those who abuse the system. However, he was very clear that  governments should not apply harmful tactics to “protect” against those who abuse. Countries should not implement solutions that harm the network, freedom of speech, or human rights. Mr. Cerf stated that most of the government agencies do not understand the system enough to make the right decisions. He even suggested using comic books to help congress and other government entities explain the systems and their use. Mr. Cerf also recognized how Government suppression is also risky for the well being of its citizens and how the system has to protect the freedom of expression.

Privacy & Safety
Two of the main points that Mr. Cerf made was about cyber security, or cyber safety as he refers to it, and intellectual property. He stated that for cyber safety there needs to be tech and legal grounds in place. And for intellectual property (copyright, patents, etc.) issues, he suggested that current business models are not the right thing for the digital world. He said businesses with old models, would be re-defined by technology and in order for them to adjust they need to change their business model to remove the incentive for piracy. He used iTunes as an example of a new business model.

Interplanetary Internet
Mr. Cerf went on to explain 100YS (100yss.org) – The 100 Year Starship. Human travel beyond our solar system over the next 100 years. This was fascinating to hear, although my understanding of “interplanetary internet” and space exploration, this was like listening to geek poetry. And it gave me a sense of focusing on the the possibilities of what we can do, even if those possibilities are light years away.

Sergey Brin’s Challenge
Mr. Cerf concluded his speech with Sergey Brin’s Challenge. If you were to reinvent the internet so that:

– no central registraions/assignments requried
– essentially impossible to shut down
– anonymity impossible to shut down
– anonymity can be protected
– freedom of expression can be protected
– protection from online harms is possible
– the system is sustainable

what would that design look like? He stated that a system as such would be hard to shut down and government suppression would be defeated.
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