Dr. David Clark received his Ph.D. from MIT and is currently now the Senior Research Scientist at MIT Computer Science Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). Since the mid-1970s, Dr. Clark has been leading the development of the Internet as the Chief Protocol Architect (1981-1989) and appointed on the Internet Activities Board. Currently, Dr. Clark heads the interdisciplinary Advanced Network Architecture (ANA) Group that focuses on identifying key research that will lead to a healthy future for the Internet.
As Dr. Clark and other architects were developing the Internet, they knew that flaws existed, but they did not foresee the size of the Internet at the time. They did not anticipate that communication between unknown sources would take place. Dr. Clark suggests, “All communication needs to be authorized because people do not exclusively communicate with known sources. There needs to be a system in place to authenticate users to keep the experience protected.” The history of the internet and the range of conflicting requirements - including longevity, security, availability, economic viability, management, and meeting the needs of society is influencing the shape of the Internet.
According to Dr. Clark, the future of the Internet poses some serious threats in regards to Internet security, regulating policies, and architect enhancement. Internet security as defined is a branch of computer security that deals specifically with Internet-based threats (Malicious Software, Malicious Scripts, Trojan Viruses, and Adware Programs). The reality of the truth is that Internet security is not clarified as just one identity but a series of complex coding instruments. Dr. Clark stresses how security is aligned with many issues and in some cases solving one makes another one harder. He states, “You can’t make security better by finding some knob and turning it”. The first step in securing the internet is understanding how problems interact with each other in comparison to solving one problem at a time. This holistic approach enables one to break security down into parts to foresee the underlying connotation.
Dr. Clark illustrates an analogy to understand the concept of security better. He says, “Let’s say that I am sending you a private letter. You would like to take some steps to make sure that someone does not open the envelope along the way. But you also fear that I am mailing you anthrax then your security concern completely turns over. Hence, you would prefer someone else to open the letter instead. So, the question is would you want the envelope to be sealed or do you want the envelope to be opened in transit?” Both of these propositions can solve a security problem but if one does not know what problem is being solved he/she is not going to find a solution.
Another concern for the future of the Internet is regulating policies to deliver better economic and social outcomes to enhance the lives of citizens and businesses. Dr. Clark finds this dilemma where the Internet is evolving much faster than the tools for regulating it. This concept is called, “co-evolution dilemma” where digital interactions enable weaker actors to influence or threaten stronger actors. In efforts to address control within the Internet age, Clark and his research partner Nazli Choucri developed the “control point analysis” method. This method seeks to create the preliminary work for a new international relations theory that describes how international and digital realms are intertwining and evolving together.
A controversial regulation that is currently placed by the government is Net Neutrality on the private sector. Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers (ISP) must treat all data equally and be equally accessible regardless of its form. The discrimination against Net Neutrality can be both beneficial and harmful. It is beneficial if priority is given to traffic with high sensitivity to variations in latency (such as teleconferencing or gaming). For example, businesses may seek opportunities if ISP was to prioritize multiplayer games in order to reduce or stabilize the gamer’s latency in return for a fee. However, it is harmful if the traffic of certain providers is throttled or blocked for business reasons. A netneutrality regulation (mentioned in the scenario) would restrict businesses to set fees. Hence, Dr. Clark aims to design well-crafted regulations that would provide an ISP enough business opportunities that incentivize to invest in the future while preventing the unreasonable behavior.
What does the future of the Internet look like? For the past 10 years, the National Science Foundations (NSF) has been running the Future Internet Architecture program. The ‘Future Internet Architecture’ aims to broaden the thinking about the future by revealing the social, technical, and economic benefits. Dr. Clark emphasizes that the Internet won’t go under a drastic change overnight. He states, “There are approximately 1.5 billion machines that run software compatible with the current architecture and converting these machines would be extremely challenging.” For the past 15 years, there has been an attempt to change the format of the Internet packets from Internet version 4 (IPv4) to IPv6. This transition is to replace addresses that have been running low with faster ones. However, the deployment of IPv6 has already taken 15 years, which demonstrates that the transition cannot happen overnight.
One of the most enticing ideas to come out of the research community is to have smarter routers that 1) memorize the packets that have been processed 2) require the sender to obtain permission before sending large amounts of data. Currently, the routers in the Internet forward packets but do not remember them. Dr. Clark says, “What if the only thing I can send you to start a conversation is a very small request, the only way you can send me a large data packet is if I request it.” Thus, one has to gain permission to send data over and prevent a whole class of DDos (distributed denial of service) attacks.
“The future of the Internet... could not be the Internet - it could be the use of its technology in a more sophisticated way in order for users to have a distributed system that meets their needs for availability, redundancy, and capacity,” says Dr. Clark. It is important that companies prepare for an emerging rich platform that provides capabilities for redefining their IT requirements. They should see the Internet as a complicated ecosystem that opens the door to innovation and a user-friendly platform for communities.
Dr. Clark strongly believes that the Internet will not mutate quickly, but communications and development context will change in order to become more complicated and capable.
This coming summer Dr. Clark plans to publish his research focusing on these challenges that the future of the Internet will face. This book will discuss a range of topics that explain how the Internet was developed, what requirements were needed, and why different decisions lead to different Internets.