The premise behind tech start-up Blocktech’s Alexandria project is pretty simple: the Library of Alexandria wouldn’t have been destroyed had there been a back-up unless the back-ups had been destroyed too.
As many readers are surely aware, the Library of Alexandria was an Egyptian wonder that was destroyed during a war which Rome (who at the time ruled Egypt) was losing. Obviously there is no footage from the event, but historical accounts contend that it was Caesar himself who inadvertently started the fire by burning his own ships.
Mankind will never know how much we really lost from the Library of Alexandria, but with much of the world’s communications and information going digital, and with national defense efforts by most countries pushing toward cyber warfare, Blocktech believes that it could happen again. Is it possible to completely eradicate anything from the Internet? While it technically is possible, it would take a massive effort and a lot of intelligence. The goal of a cyberwarfare effort in the direction of eradicating information and knowledge wouldn’t be as much to succeed in full erasure, it would be more focused on disruption.
Disrupting Central Points of Failure
What Blocktech’s Alexandria is offering is a way for companies and communities to prevent catastrophic data loss caused by ill-intentioned hackers. If everyone has a copy of something, then you have to take everyone down. Futuristic civilizations come to mind, with everyone carrying a small device that contains all of the knowledge the civilization has ever acquired. But it’s much simpler than this, in terms of the technological solution Alexandria is selling.
Alexandria is a system for publishing despite censorship or cyber attacks. An Alexandria implementation has three main components, but Bitcoin comes in to serve optional audience-to-publisher payments. For actual transmission of files, which can be various types of content, the peer-to-peer file-sharing software BitTorrent has been utilized. Florincoin made some advancements in block chain technology such that its block chain serves the purpose of tying all this together, creating a publishing ledger with a payment layer. It also makes use of IPFS, the revolutionary file sharing protocol that could replace the Internet as we know it.
What Bitcoin did for money, Alexandria will do for digital content publishing and distribution by removing central points of failure and financially incentivizing users around the world.
The way Alexandria works is similar to any other decentralized computing platform: numerous machines working together to serve files and ensure their legitimacy. A situation where all nodes can agree on the contents of the network is always preferable to one requiring constant verification.
Alexandria is another in a long line of projects that are solving a problem rarely discussed on the Internet: censorship is real, and growing. In this reality, anti-censorship technology and secure methods of communication and education are going to be necessary. The Library of Alexandria will not be the last project to tackle this problem, but its approach has some of the important markers of success: clear vision and a strong team.
Images from Shutterstock (the new Library of Alexandria) and Blocktech.