‘Mother of the Internet’ Radia Perlman favors central resources • The Registry

Internet pioneer Radia Perlman spoke in favor of centralized infrastructure, during a speech Friday at the International Symposium on Blockchain Advancements in Singapore.

Perlman argued that conventional wisdom places centralized systems as “bad” and decentralized as “good,” yet decentralized entities are inherently problematic in many ways.

“Blockchain as a buzzword originated as the underlying technology of Bitcoin. People have been making money off Bitcoin, and the more it has been hyped, the more startups have exploited the hype to claim that their product has something to do with Blockchain,” Perlman explained. “If you hear that much hype, at well you assume, it must be incredibly important.”

“I think pianos are wonderful, but I wouldn’t use them for mass transit. Everything has a purpose,” added the inventor of the spanning tree protocol (STP).

Perlman said the purpose of the Bitcoin blockchain was to evade government organizations like countries or banks, and while those systems can sometimes be corrupted, they also have their uses.

“Centralized means that an organization is accountable. It usually means there are multiple servers, so it doesn’t mean a single point of failure. And it usually means that the data is stored in many places, so your data won’t be lost. And especially if your data is stored in a public cloud,” Perlman said.

The author and academic added that other additional benefits are clearly who is to blame when things go wrong and most applications require “adult supervision” or someone to answer for system problems.

“Now, if you’re using Bitcoin, I’m not sure what you would buy with Bitcoin, probably something like a hit man. And if it doesn’t kill, who could you complain to? How do you get your money back? So most of the time, centralization is exactly what you want,” she further reasoned.

In conversation with The register following his presentation, Perlman said that blockchain is more of a marketing term than an actual technology, a fad of the moment in its existing form that may have elements manifesting themselves in the future, but in essence it’s not much different than a database and is often more difficult to use.

“I’m amazed that I’m caught up in all of this, because most of my thoughts are really anti-blockchain,” Perlman said The Reg “I kind of don’t think it’s a core technology that you should be focusing on.”

Perlman’s spanning tree algorithm was published in 1985 and is central to how network bridges work, and eventually paved the way for modern Ethernet to develop into a protocol capable of handling large clouds.

She is often referred to as the “mother of the Internet,” a title that tends to laugh.

Perlman said The Reg if she hadn’t written the algorithm, someone else would have, although she’s pretty sure it wouldn’t have been done as simply or elegantly because she believes her superpower lies in simplicity and pragmatism.

So how does the “mother of the Internet” feel about the web of networks she helped enable?

“If you had asked me that question 10 years ago, I would have become thrilled with how miraculously it was transforming society,” he said The register. “But these days, I think it’s the end of civilization.”

Perlman has described AI algorithms leading to the polarization of rabbit holes of content as among the key dystopian features of the internet. Worse, it allows disaffected extremists to connect with one another.

“If there are only 50 terrorists in the country, it’s not a big deal, unless they can all find each other easily,” Perlman said.

“I don’t see out of this anyway,” he said The register.he then added that fixing the internet is something that now belongs to the next generation.

“Sometimes when I give a talk at the university, and I talk about all these negative and sad things, then I smile and say but you’re all students. If you were to say that we have solved all the world’s problems, what would you do? So aren’t you grateful to us for giving you such a broken thing? ®