1994-04-04 - Re: Economic assumptions

Header Data

From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
To: hughes@ah.com (Eric Hughes)
Message Hash: 4a18f9aa44c9a3a350db069e53af16e173978f49a7d4554a28f608f984d94b34
Message ID: <199404041904.MAA08571@mail.netcom.com>
Reply To: <9404041821.AA08128@ah.com>
UTC Datetime: 1994-04-04 19:03:43 UTC
Raw Date: Mon, 4 Apr 94 12:03:43 PDT

Raw message

From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
Date: Mon, 4 Apr 94 12:03:43 PDT
To: hughes@ah.com (Eric Hughes)
Subject: Re: Economic assumptions
In-Reply-To: <9404041821.AA08128@ah.com>
Message-ID: <199404041904.MAA08571@mail.netcom.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Eric Hughes writes:

> I can imagine that bandwidth in the fibersphere for text transmission
> will be too cheap to meter, which means that the cost of metering
> would more than the marginal revenue.  In this case, and this is not
> the near future, there aren't any delivery charges per message.
> Suppose 5 billion people are all typing continuously at 300 bps.
> That's 1.5 Tbps, certainly within the conceivable for a single
> transmission line.  So that's everything everyone in the world types,
> delivered at flat rate to your computer.  
> The assumption of scarcity for bandwidth, while true now, may not
> generalize to the future.  We should also not assume that every
> commons is subject to the tragedy of overuse.

Ah, but the issue of mail overload is _rarely_ caused by what a person
can personally type! Rather, by the _forwardings_ of other masses of
stuff, written by others. "MAKE.MONEY.FAST" is but the most recent
example. Not to mention images, coredumps, etc.  (There's a guy on
Netcom who, interestingly, sets his "plan" file to be redirected to a
file called "/vmunix," which apparently dumps a nearly unending stream
of stuff onto one's screen.)

If data delivery is free, then what will the service providers (be
they PacBell, Yoyodyne Enterprises, or (ugh) the government) do when I
choose to take whatever bandwidth I can get and simply _fill_ it.
After all, if it's "free" and "unmetered," then I can fill it to
capacity (if I can). Or will there be quotas?

(If the answer is "No fees, no quotas, use as much as you can," then I
maintain it will be relatively easy to continue to flood sites. Flood
them worse than anything we've seen so far, in fact. I'll go out on a
limb and speculate that cheap delivery makes a fee schedule of some
sort _more important_, not less important. Of course, this is up to
the service providers; anyone who wishes to provded a free bandwidth
link should be free to do so!)

I was always skeptical of George Gilder's "fibersphere" assertions,
that the fibers will be mostly "dark" because of a shortage of things
to say, for example, and that usage would be "too cheap to meter."
(Hmmmhh, where have I heard _that_ before?)

Things will get much cheaper, that's for sure, but never free. (This
is not an ideological statement, but a practical statement, in my

I can think of certain malicious persons--and I expect more of them in
the future, not fewer--who would mount "denial of service" attacks on
sites they didn't like by turning the firehoses of data on them.

Of course, I expect sites to be able to refuse delivery without being
charged, so clever mail-filtering agents will be essential.

TANSTAAFL--There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Link

--Tim May

Timothy C. May         | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,  
tcmay@netcom.com       | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
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Higher Power: 2^859433 | Public Key: PGP and MailSafe available.
"National borders are just speed bumps on the information superhighway."