P2P and The Social Cloud is a two-part white paper which discusses some of the limitations of the current economic system, in particular its dependence on non-renewable resources to sustain infinite growth. It also suggests considering the opportunity to move to a sustainable economy based on a new concept for building social networking services. This new concept, the Social Cloud can be summarized as cloud computing running in a peer-to-peer social network.
Photo credit: Dzmitry Stankevich
The P2P Social Cloud may help increase our ability to self-organize, collaborate and participate in creating a more efficient and sustainable network of communities, helping to bridge the digital divide and stimulating collective intelligence, crowd-sourced action and a social and economic revolution.
This potentially alternative economy has the potential to be much more independent of traditional resources as compared to the traditional economic systems as well as the one of rapidly reaching a level self-sustainability. It stimulates an increase in the level of social activity, collaboration and in the conscious attitude toward resource-sharing, in an over-populated, finite planet.
In Part 1 you can find a rationale, introduction and explanation of the reasons that would make such a peer-to-peer network infrastructure desirable for humanity as a whole.
Here, in Part 2, Rafael Pezzi looks specifically at the implementation of such a social cloud peer-to-peer network and at the required infrastructure to make this vision come true: hardware, kernel, plugins, content and synchronization.
by Rafael Pezzi
The implementation of a social cloud peer-to-peer network can be divided into four layers:
The basic networking infrastructure refers to the basic hardware responsible for network communication.
The existing Internet hardware based on the standard TCP / IP protocol is perfectly suitable for the task of supporting social cloud networks. Alternatively, it is also possible to grow social cloud networks on decentralized systems such as a mesh networking wireless topology, which can be particularly useful for isolated communities.
However, as the network expands and communities start to join local social cloud networks, it will be possible to migrate social cloud services from the standard Internet to mesh networking, making it independent of commercial or governmental networking services.
The kernel also provides the interface on which plug-ins can access database and network information.
This kernel will provide the basic interface on which the network topology will be build according to users' social networks, forming the social cloud. It will result in the establishment of communities. Data will flow in peer-to-peer, peer-to-group, and group-to-group schemes.
This kernel consists of a mixture of:
For enhanced security and privacy, networks can be constructed using the Friend-to-Friend (F2F) network topology.
In friendship and community based P2P network, peers can be securely identified by cryptographic keys, allowing private and secure communication between trusted parties upon mutual agreement. Cryptographic keys can also be generated for community content, where groups of users can securely create and edit shared content for the development of complex projects.
Plug-ins will serve specific purposes such as managing an exchange marketplace where peers may post offers or requests for goods and services. Another plug-in may track and verify user reputation by checking with other peers about evaluations of past negotiations.
Other possible plug-ins include:
Content falls under two basic categories:
Hierarchical category levels of information will allow each user to select the desirable range of information flow for each posted content in order to control the distribution of sensitive information only for trusted partners. Some possible categories include public, business, family, friends, friends of friends.
Some suggested subcategories include public, members, friends of members.
Communities will be built upon the generation of public and shared keys in order to control what information will be public and what will be restricted to its members. Once a new member is accepted into the community, he / she will receive appropriate keys granting access and participation in the group's activities.
In this peer-to-peer social network, the public and shared contents of users and communities must be kept synchronized by appropriate protocols. Each user will allocate some space in his or her own hard drive for relaying the content of other users while some others are off-line.
Some examples of communities:
Formal connections can be established between communities, allowing collaborative interaction between a cooperative of organic farmers and a group of consumers interested in organic products. In order to maintain a large community it is desirable to have different levels of memberships.
Community creators can grant different levels of memberships such as owner, editor, member - each category having its own set of permissions.
Similar to RSS feeds, users can also subscribe to public content of communities or peers. In this way the subscriber may also relay its content to others.
Another potentiality of communities regards its ability to issue certification to goods and services offered by individuals or even other communities. In this context, offerings can be certified, approved, or audited by a trusted group. This allied to reputation obtained by on-line voting and peer evaluation, can provide a reliable metric for enhancing trustfulness of products and services offered within the network.
Some good practices will have to be carried in order to keep the network running.
Synchronization problems can be reduced by increasing connectivity times or a common daily synchronization period at an agreed time each day for a local community.
For geographically sparse communities laking a long distance communication link, synchronization parties can be regularly scheduled in order to maintain service functionality.
P2P networks also presents high flexibility and can provide a higher level of privacy as compared to standard, server based social networks as each user can authoritatively select who will have access to each information.
On the other hand, a loose implementation of the social cloud protocol will facilitate the conception of crawling bots that can harvest information in the network for data mining and monitoring, raising serious privacy concerns. Consequently, it is advised to build a protocol based on strong encryption and careful information sharing between peers - categorized information sharing.
Encryption layers similar to Freenet can be implemented in order to prevent privacy attacks. With a mesh networking topology, the social cloud protocol can run in isolated communities independent of commercial and governmental network providers. It allows advanced digital communications in case of accidental (or otherwise) unavailability of central digital backbones.
The social cloud network can run on any platform capable of network communication.
With the increasing availability of wireless networking devices, the connection of multiple devices with minimal changes in the basic infrastructure becomes possible, simplifying the expansion of the network. Indeed, almost any hardware with network capabilities can may integrate a social cloud network if it was not locked by its manufacturer.
By developing the software for lower cost hardware, such as mobile phones, Pocket PCs, Palmtops, or the $100.00 laptop (One laptop per child XO-1 sublaptop computer), communities with limited resources will be able to make use of social cloud networking. In this scenario, by children with access to XO-1 computers may have the ability to build powerful social cloud networks, with the possibility of helping in reshaping the economy the community in which they are inserted. This is one issue that must be carefully analyzed.
Another possibility is providing low cost networking devices for each household. Low cost mobile devices can also work as surveying and publishing probes, expanding the broadcasting range of the network by connecting to other peers while moving outside of its primary location.
Synchronization is maintained when the user is back to his primary location and the mobile device connects to his main computer. In this sense it is urged for hardware manufactures to open their architecture in order to allow the utilization of discarded equipment for applications other than the primary designed purpose.
Nowadays, equipment with wireless communication capabilities, in perfect usable conditions are being unnecessarily dumped into the environment for being outdated, while it could be used for other purposes such as running basic mesh communication services. This kind of locking policy is not viable in a planet with limited resources and should be condemned.
How to become part of the solution?
This article discusses some of the limitations of the current economic system, in particular its dependence on non-renewable resources to sustain infinite growth.
As resources approach depletion an inevitable collapse will take place and a transition to a sustainable economy is the only alternative to maintain a resilient human society. In this scenario, the role of information technology tools in a transition economy is presented with emphasis on a new concept for building social networking services.
This new concept, the social cloud can be summarized as cloud computing running in a peer-to-peer social network. It may help increasing the level of self-organizing coordination and collaboration both within a community and between communities. With proper hardware, it may also bring network communication for the masses and waking up their collective intelligence, triggering a social and economic revolution.
It is also suggested that the proper implementation of the social cloud concept using free and open source software allied to suitable networking hardware will catalyze the formation of resilient local and achieving sustainability in a timely manner by extending the quality and efficiency of human interactions. It may have the potential to allow local communities to economies by linking the production chain to the social network of each community, facilitating the emergence of a peer economy.
This alternative economy have the potential to depend on less resources as compared to the traditional economic system, helping to revert the current state of humankind fortify its social links and boost its economy by increasing the level of collaboration and resource-sharing, in an over-populated, finite planet.
End of Part 2
Originally written by Rafael Pezzi for Social Cloud, and first published on September 20th, 2009 as Information Technology Tools For a Transition Economy.
About Rafael Pezzi
Rafael Pezzi obtained his BSc, masters, and PhD degrees in physics at Universidade Federal Do Rio Grande Do Sul (UFRGS), Porto Alegre, Brazil. He also spent 20 months as a summer intern and post-doctoral researcher at IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, USA between 2004 and 2008, working on analysis and development of advanced materials for semiconductor technology. As of March 2009, Rafael holds a post-doctoral follow position at the Laboratory of Molecular Catalysis at UFRGS, in Porto Alegre where he is researching materials for renewable sources of energy.
Rafael Pezzi -
The Network - Neokan
Infrastructure - Mipan
Kernel - AlexStar
Plug-ins - Michael Osterrieder
Content - Norebbo
Synchronization - Mipan
Hardware - Andres Rodriguez