Soviet scientists tried for decades to network their nation. What stalemated them is now fracturing the global internet
How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet, Author: Benjamin Peters.
By Benjamin Peters – First proposed in 1962, the All-State Automated System, or OGAS, was intended to become a real-time, remote-access national computer network built on preexisting and new telephony wires. In its most ambitious version, it would span most of the Eurasian continent, mapping itself like a nervous system onto every factory and enterprise in the planned economy.
The forces that brought down OGAS resemble those that eventually undid the Soviet Union: the surprisingly informal forms of institutional misbehavior. Subversive ministers, status quo-inclined bureaucrats, nervous factory managers, confused workers and even other economic reformers opposed the OGAS project because it was in their institutional self-interest to do so. Without state funding and oversight, the national network project for ushering in electronic socialism splintered in the 1970s and ’80s into a patchwork of dozens and then hundreds of isolated, non-interoperable factory local-area control systems.
The Soviet state failed to network their nation not because it was too rigid or top-down in design but because it was too fickle and pernicious in practice.
There is an irony to this. The first global computer networks took root in the US thanks to well-regulated state funding and collaborative research environments, while the contemporary (and notably independent) national network efforts in the USSR floundered due to unregulated competition and institutional infighting among Soviet administrators. The first global computer network emerged thanks to capitalists behaving like cooperative socialists, not socialists behaving like competitive capitalists.
In the fate of the Soviet internet we can glimpse a clear and present warning to the future of the internet. Today the ‘internet’ – understood as a single global network of networks for advancing informational liberty, democracy and commerce – is in serious decline. more> https://goo.gl/Ha9MmF