Ethics in Infrastructure: Building the Internet We Want

Hosted by Cashless Society 101: Ethics and Values Based Innovations

Public group


“One has this feeling of having contributed to something that’s gone very wrong” Jaron Lanier / “The internet is terrible now” Tim Wu

The internet has gone through some changes, not all for the better. Where the early internet felt like an expression of collectivity, a miracle of human connection, full of endless potential. Now for many, it feels ominous, corporate, predatory, and extortionate, enabling surveillance and authoritarianism, a wasteland of unintended consequences.

But do not fear! Internet idealists are working hard to rebuild the Internet We Want, creating new decentralized systems to route around gatekeepers and racketeers. Advocates for decentralization claim a new digital utopia: healthy digital ecosystems, level playing fields, open digital public spaces, and opportunity for all.

But will our new digital utopia fall prey to unintended consequences as well?

Join us for a discussion of decentralized upstarts that challenge the Internet gatekeepers: community mesh networks, upstart platform coops, blockchain data systems, crypto-everything.

Can renegade tech save our digital future? Would adopting the principles of decentralization end up hardening our Internet bubbles into fragmented physical infrastructure and competing reality regimes? And what would that world look like for equity in general if other stratifications continue to harden — income inequality, political polarization, predatory automation, climate injustice?

Bring your ideas about what it might take to intentionally build consent, equity, and joy into a more hopeful digital future.

Doors @ 6:30 pm. Conversation @ 7 pm.

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Greta Byrum, Moderator // Greta Byrum is the Co-Director of the Digital Equity Laboratory at The New School, a center advancing digital equity through organizing, applied research, and policy strategy. Previously at New America, Greta led Resilient Networks NYC, an initiative to build storm-hardened local WiFi in Hurricane Sandy-impacted neighborhoods. Her writing on resilience and community technology has been featured in Politico, The Atlantic, Pacific Standard, Slate, Real Clear Policy, and the International Journal of Communication.

Ingrid Burrington // Ingrid Burrington writes, makes maps, and tells jokes about places, politics, and the weird feelings people have about both. She wrote a book ("Networks of New York: An Illustrated Field Guide to Urban Internet Infrastructure") about finding the internet on the street.

Grayson Earle // Grayson Earle's diverse technological practice is unified by a political approach to media arts. Employing video games, video projection, algorithmic audiovisual generation, biological organisms, and robotics, his work tends to intervene on physical spaces and entrenched ideas. His creative practice articulates a repositioning of resistance to power that invites participation from reluctant citizens.

Dhruv Mehrotra // Dhruv Mehrotra is an activist and engineer who is interested in social justice, policy, and politics. He is currently an artist in residence at Eyebeam and a researcher at NYU Courant. Dhruv is also the network operator of Saycel, an open source cellular network located in Nicaragua.

Darshana Narayanan // Darshana Narayanan is a Neuroscientist and consultant. She studies human behavior at multiple levels (individual and organization) and time scales (ontogeny and evolutionary history). She works on Polis, a crowd-understanding platform used by governments, businesses, nonprofits and communities for collective governance. Darshana has a Psychology & Neuroscience from Princeton University.

Houman Saberi // Houman Saberi is the deputy director of the Resilient Communities project for RISE:NYC. In this role, he is helping to build resilient community wireless networks in Sandy-affected areas of the city in partnership with local businesses, civic organizations, and residents.