An Alternative

The Other Internet Eating keyboard

With all the talk of high-speed broadband, it’s worth considering this modest proposal as an alternative information source.

There’s another Internet, with many advantages over the World Wide Web. This system doesn’t require fibre-optic cable, nodes or servers. It has no harmful effect on flight navigation systems. Nor does it need system upgrades. Best of all, it doesn’t even carry ads.

The technology is not new. In fact, it’s been around for a couple of millennia. It’s called a ‘book’. The data storage unit comes in portable form, never runs low on battery power, and is available in many languages. Also it costs almost nothing to use. Moreover, when you cross international boundaries, you don’t incur added user costs or retail carrying charges. If lost or damaged, the book unit is relatively cheap to replace.

This other Internet doesn’t require proprietary technology to operate in different network domains. You can use the English version without difficulty in other protocol environments. Its signal reaches anywhere on the planet, without reception black-spots. And it’s not at risk of spam or cookies—at least, not the digital kind. The book unit can’t be hacked. It even works during a power blackout. Provided you keep your unit dry, it’s safe and convenient to use during heatwaves and thunderstorms. What’s more, you can carry a book without the slightest concern about electromagnetic radiation.

The book unit even has hyperlinks, known as ‘quotations,’ which encourage users to investigate other compatible units. Its click-bait are called ‘titles’ and ‘chapter headings’. A word of caution: even the book unit can’t avoid all sources of distraction. ‘Titles’ and ‘covers’ can be especially bothersome when browsing in the portal known as a ‘book shop’.

Admittedly there are some drawbacks to this alternative Internet. Storage capacity can be a problem for heavy users, though there is a file-sharing facility in the form of cloud servers called ‘libraries’. Usage of a book unit can sometimes demand more physical movement than just elbow, thumbs and wrist. On occasion, actual use of the legs may be necessary for portal access. And there’s the added risk of human contact dealing with help desk staff known as ‘librarians’.

Another shortcoming with the book unit is its lack of metadata capability. A sudden upsurge in usage could present problems for our Attorney-General’s crusade to monitor everybody’s data footprint. Detection of access activities such as ‘book buying’ or ‘borrowing’ won’t be easy for surveillance agencies, requiring labour-intensive methods of scrutiny. Fortunately the online marketplace has discouraged the spread of access by closing down bookshops across the country. Yet the risk of non-digital browsing remains. If our government is truly serious about metadata monitoring, we may yet see an increase in restricting book access. Library surveillance is one obvious precautionary measure.

At the extreme end of metadata investigation is a black market traffic in information exchange known as ‘borrowing,’ a difficult practice to monitor. Likewise, subversive cells called ‘book clubs’ can evade inspection by security agencies by using non-digital communications like handwriting or talk. Tracking devices for book units would not be an effective response to the metadata mission. Already the dissident user can avoid detection easily by meeting in venues not favourable to electronic monitoring — such as most of rural and regional Australia.

But this should not deter the consumer. Data access shortcomings like walking to a library or reaching up to a shelf are outweighed by the advantage of dispensing with any form of broadband (high-speed or Australian medium-pace). Users do not even require support systems like Wifi access, ISPs, https, or any form of electricity.

Believe it or not, the alternative Internet relies on an operating mechanism that needs no system upgrades. In fact, it continually self-upgrades using a facility known as the ‘mind’. Best of all, a book unit has no use-by date. Older versions operate with equal efficiency as newly purchased books. These units can work at peak efficiency for twenty, fifty or even a hundred years, provided the individual book is handled properly.

So while households across Australia wait and wait for their national broadband to roll out, users should consider the advantages of this alternative means of data retention, knowledge management and information networking. Before our government embarks on legislation to limit book access in favour of a more traceable method of mental activity, the smart buyer will grab this opportunity to stock up on a bargain user system. When compared with the costs of maintaining IT departments, hardware depreciation and software development, the book unit holds its own as an economic alternative.

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