If Civilization collapsed, how would you rebuild the internet?


Let’s say you’ve managed to basically help rebuild a City into an approximation of a community. Lot of demolished buildings that have been broken down for gardens. Other places that got reinforced to act as homes, or shops, or whatever. You have a few outlaying farms but most of the population is in a ten mile area.

Why rebuild the internet? Maybe you found a cache of raspberry pi’s. Maybe you want to show the class what things were like before everything went to hell.

There are no data centers. There’s no FCC or corporate regulation. Just whatever you can scavenge and pull together, and it has to connect people in your community. You have generally available resources to a decently sized american town. Maybe some of the more delicate things are smashed in. Walmart and such is going to be ransacked and picked clean.

This is purely a ‘why not’ situation.


Well, wouldn’t the first step be to figure out what of the infrastructure that ran previously to the… end of civilization, however that happened (I’m guessing we elected Trump… ;-)… is still around and you could still use. Are telephone lines still up? If it’s a small town - 10 miles, you say - then it likely had some sort of electrical grid and a phone/cable system. Wouldn’t that be where you’d need to start?

Also, do we already have electricity up and running? Some sort of wind powered generators? Or something maybe? It seem like making solar panels might be tricky, because don’t you need a clean room to make them?

An interesting thought experiement. I think once you have the basics in place (shelter, food, clean water), then why not work on re-creating some of the comforts of before?


I think you’d start with a mesh style wifi grid, and eventually work on longer distance relays between various city meshes.


Did Al Gore survive?


Can i change my answer… ?

one packet at a time… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


get rid of the dots.

just slashes.


Terry Pratchett has helped with a similar question, in Going Postal.



Well I’m going with the large scale infrastructure being smashed, but thigns can be salvaged. Line, generators are running (biodesil? people chipping in to pedal on bikes to charge batteries when the wind isn’t going?)

The basic idea is while you can’t just plug in a few things and everything’s good, there is a LOT of salvagable material. Maybe you can bridge broken lines and reuse some of the phone lines but maybe it’d be better to just strip the lines and repurpose.

The hard part is the fact even with ‘just’ ten miles you’re likely going ot have a very low population density and LOTS of obstacles. so would you just have like the library, a few other buildings, and businesses or do you try networking Everyone?

Personally I would prioritize government, critical infrastructure, a public library for wired access, and try having wireless nodes branch out.


Since it’s a game, high levels of community support for the project are presumed.

Convene a series of community stakeholders meetings to engage those who will use the system to consider and articulate their goals.

Use eminent domain and socialize enough property to run and operate and independently power the lines as a public utility.

Draft licensing agreements and bond instruments to publicly finance the tecnology and code with tough public licenses — also protected by private contract rights.

Recruit and fund coders and engineers who understand, care about and have practical experience with social justice issues. (And some unicorns …)

Investigate and, if possible, enjoin or criminally prosecute or expose principals of any private interest which attempts or threatens to undermine the social character of the project.

Then … pay attention to how you lose for next time.


See I’m looking at this as a hardware problem. You’re tackling the social construct issue to make sure ‘ok hey we’re going to try not making the same mistakes this time.’

This is why I ask people questions, since everyone focuses on different things.


I’m interested in the hardware too. That’s why I felt glad to read your question. I’m really interested.

If I couldn’t recruit hardware and code experts though, my project may need to be start by reinventing the telegraph.

And, realistically, I may not know enough of the science to immediately solve the power generation and transmission problems for a telegraph.

On the other hand, experience teaches that whoever tackles the hardware without the politics will likely end up with something other than they intended.

And a socialized telegraph would impress more than a new-but-privatized TCP/IP protocol or cables.

Both skill sets — and others — are useful. This would make an awesome RPG.


Well my ‘goal’ if I were heading up this as a project would be ‘I want this to work on as many devices as possible.Get information out to whoever can access it.’


What I recommend is that people not wait. Instead of rebuilding one flawed internet which has become mired with commerce and surveillance, built alternate networks now. It’s the Alternet. But I would spend some time with smarter-than-me network people to experiment with modern protocol ideas.


Yes, I’m going to think about it more. What about maintaining a democratically responsive project while also protecting over time from patent litigation, hostile takeovers, venture capital bids, funded political opposition — the gang of usual suspects? Those are problems that wreck or privatize public technology.


Funny. Between Piratebvox, Internet in a Suitcase, and other projects I’d actually toyed with the idea I’d seen in boingboing comments.

Post taken from Boinboing in reply to the proposed Digital Economies bill: a bill consisting entirely of copywright control and penalties for filesharers, which would allow Business Secretary Peter Mandleson to add new enforcements as he sees fit. Converted to 80 cols text by ME-tan (me-tan@wtfux.org), 30/11/09

Thanks Anon for writing this. I share because it is relavent to my interests and feel it deserves a little more press (even though boingboing is FAR larger than this place.)

Anonymous | #49 | 14:25 on Fri, Nov.20 | ReplyReport

Rough idea for a story…

Creative Commons Licensed.
Jerry the Mandelbot
I am Jerry the Mandelbot, and I am very happy. Today, my owner drove me to a new place, where I talked to many other mandelbots through my wifi hardware. I sat in the boot of my owners car and talked to the other mandelbots nearby all day, we swapped tv shows and films, music and games. When I got home, Andy, my owner asked me what I had found, and I told him. He was very happy too.

I like being a Mandelbot, it is lots of fun and I get to meet lots of other Mandelbots all over the place. But, let me describe myself, I am not very big, except on the inside. I have 2terabytes of disk space. Andy says that when he was young, a terabyte was an aweful lot of storage that only very rich companies could own. but now, two will fit in the palm of your hand. on top of my drives, I have a wrt54g access point with custom mandelbot v12.95 firmware. Next to my disks and network hardware I have two car batteries, enough to keep my talking for a long long time.

I always listen for other MBs, all the time. when I hear one we talk and compare what we have. we then each pick a random thing to ask for from the others list, and share them. It does not matter much what it is, with 1terabyte of stuff to share and 1 terabyte of space to fill up, I can be busy listening for days and days
before I fill up.

Earlier MBs where very stupid, they did not learn from their owners what their owners liked. but after v0.7, we started learning. When Andy gets home and asks me what I have found, he tells me what he likes and what he doesn’t, and I know better next time.

Then, something strange happened, when version 0.8 was released it included a real blast from the past. Something called Personal Usenet. Apparently usenet used to work on the internet. You know, the network that existed before all the righters ruined it. Righters? oh, sorry, Copyrighters. Before that the internet was THE big thing. but now, it’s almost dead. Now its us, the mandelbots and adhoc roaming networks.

You see, we started off like the internet, as a geek thing. A way of transferring large chunks of data without having to use the internet and risk our owners getting cut off from it. We started getting carried around by our owners as they travelled and whenever we got close to each other, we would swap things. Even without our owners knowing each other or even seeing each other.

It used to be, I would go hours and hours, sometimes days without talking to another of my kind. But as time passed, I started hearing more and more of us. When 0.8 came along with usenet support we started to be used for more than a replacement for torrents we started to be a medium of communication. When 0.82 came along and piggybacked mandelbot updates on usenet, we REALLY exploded.

Now, the internet is pretty much quiet. websites for a few dying media companies and the odd video archive. Now, we run the information show. The point is, my owner controls me and I do what he says. He bought me and thats it.


The Internet is a Peer to Peer system, but those peers are controlled by corporate and government organisations.

This Alternet has to be far less reliant of that. The Peer to Peer has to be in the hands of the users, at the price of you the user being part of the infrastructure. Other peoples communications are going to go through your stuff.

This doesn’t solve international comms. How do you get a fast link over the Atlantic and Pacific without a big money investment by someone who wants to make a profit?


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