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Problem Statement

Big Tech and The Looming Threat To Autonomy

“The same technology that can encourage a virtuous circle of greater access, lower costs and better services might equally induce a vicious circle of data silos, market power and anti-competitive practices.”

  • Bank for International Settlements

The existing Internet heavily relies on cloud computing. Cloud computing allows us to run complex and rich applications. However, cloud computing as of today has a major problem: you have to trust the cloud computing provider with your data. In other words, your data is at the mercy of the cloud service providers.

Over time, the storage and processing of personal and organizational data has become more and more centralized. A small number of tech giants take control of most internet traffic and data processing, The results include censorship and compromised privacy protection. For example, Amazon Web Service, Google, and Apple removed social media platform Parler from their cloud computing platforms or mobile app stores in early 2021, effectively wiping Parler off the Internet.

This monopoly by bigtech is a problem because  they can enforce their ideological agenda through control of the internet.

You will not be exposed to opposing viewpoints or opinions about certain topics because these companies do not allow them in the marketplace of ideas, therefore you won't know there even were other viewpoints out there because you never saw them in your newsfeed or search results! When they finally do show up after they have been censored for long enough it is pointless to have a rational discussion about them with people who only see one side of the argument.

These companies are doing this to prevent anyone from challenging their power or their narrative, and they are also working together in other ways like google partnering with the NSA to integrate black hat data gathering into its services

What do we need? Decentralization . It's time to start using decentralized alternatives. We will never escape the bigtech monopoly by continuing to use centralized platforms that these companies control - they can censor anything on these systems, so long as it doesn't get too much attention or people stop using it because it got censored.

This is the only way we can escape their grip on information. If everyone uses decentralized systems, big tech will have no chance of retaining its monopoly as there would be multiple services to use for each purpose - they cannot censor them all! Plus, if people started using these instead of centralized bigtech monopolies then eventually bigtech's market share would drop because so few people were using them. This isn't just about escaping censorship either - it's about having real choice in a marketplace of ideas. Each service has its own flaws that you may not agree with- but when many companies compete for your attention and business you don't have to choose between a government endorsed left 'politically correct' narrative and an unregulated right 'politically incorrect' one. Instead, you can choose the services that best suit your needs regardless of whether or not anyone agrees with their policies.

However, remember that centralized services will always be locked in competition for users which means they must constantly improve in order to maintain popularity which is what gives us as consumers so much value - we determine how well companies do. However, the bigtech monopoly prevents us from using other services instead of theirs - because there are no alternatives. It's a classic prisoner dilemma - everyone wants real choice but if people don't leave these systems then this never happens and we're all stuck collaborating on something that we hate together. This is why decentralized solutions need to be a focus of the liberty activist community moving forward.

If you want more people to give up on centralized platforms and move over to decentralized ones then teach them about this - explain it in simple terms because they won't understand why decentralization is important otherwise! Give them examples from history where centralization has caused problems. Make content about how bigtech uses censorship against users- if enough people are aware of this, most will leave these systems for decentralized alternatives.

Yet another problem with delegating one’s data to a big tech company is that a rogue insider could access customers’ information, as exemplified by the Google employee who used his privileged access to customer data to stalk and spy on teenagers. Even at the United States National Security Agency, where security is top of mind, a contractor named Eric Snowden was able to sneak out up to 1.5 million files, many of which are considered top secret.

It is apparent that a democratic world needs democratized cloud computing, in which no one entity can become the choke point of information flow, no rogue service provider or rogue employee could compromise the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of the client’s information, and there should always be alternative ways for people to have their information and ideas processed and disseminated.

Many practitioners in the field with this objective in mind have proposed solutions, which we will look at next.

Challenges with Existing Solutions and Relevant Case Studies

The industry has attempted to solve the above problems with solutions in two directions: decentralization and private computing.

The most prominent development in decentralization is the advent of public blockchains. But they have several issues.

First issue with public blockchains is inefficiency. Because of the nature of permissionless participation, a public blockchain network needs to have the same transactions or applications (in the form of smart contracts) executed by the majority of the nodes on the network in order to reach consensus. The waste of computing resources is enormous. It is hard to imagine that general computation tasks can be delegated to such a network, when each task is carried out thousands of times before the result can be recognized by the network.

On the other hand, public blockchains by nature expose all data to all the nodes. In a world where data confidentiality and privacy are essential requirements for computing platform providers, adding privacy features such as zero-knowledge proof is making computation tasks much more difficult.

For the second type of solution, private computing technologies have focused on two areas: sophisticated encryption schemes such as homomorphic encryption and secure multi-party computation, and secure computation enclaves in specially designed computer chips such as the Intel SGX.

Homomorphic encryption promises to allow computing on encrypted data without ever needing to decrypt the data. The technology is still under development. Besides the added computational load, it is unclear whether homomorphic encryption is realistic for all computation tasks and for all kinds of encryption algorithms. Secure multi-party computation faces similar challenges.

Looking at the use of secure enclaves for private computing, relying on proprietary secure enclave technologies is well accepted when such secure enclaves are in possession of the information owner, such as in the cases of smart phones and laptop computers. However, when such secure enclaves are in the possession of the cloud service providers, especially when security flaws have been disclosed that could lead to information leakage, combined with concerns around government requests and rogue insiders, it is hard to convince cloud computing customers that such a model would guarantee the confidentiality and privacy of their data.

Another problem with current implementations is  that they are not very scalable.

One prominent example is Bitcoin. The protocol limits the number of transactions per block to less than two thousand, which is woefully inadequate for some applications (for example, Bittorrent and counterparty require hundreds of thousands of transactions in a day).

Another problem with blockchain technology is that it uses enormous amounts of energy. It has been estimated that Bitcoin mining eats up 0.2% of the world's total electricity supply. If we were to take this estimate to its logical extreme, then that means that all the computers in the world would consume as much electricity as a medium sized country like France or Australia . This may be getting closer to reality than we'd like to imagine. It has also been estimated that 10% of the world's total electricity is used for mining, which seems more credible if you consider that there are now thousands of miners using specialized ASIC chips working at maximum capacity.

Currently we have a cryptocurrency based on this technology with a market capitalization of $100 billion (Bitcoin), and in this case, software design considerations seem secondary to the goal of obtaining profit from speculation. Even though Bitcoin offers better privacy than popular centralized payment systems like Paypal or Venmo, it still requires personal information to obtain and use bitcoin . Furthermore, transaction fees can be quite high and vary significantly depending on the level of activity. This was not an issue when there were only a handful of users, but now that the network is growing rapidly we are starting to see backlogs and high fees. In fact, some people have even begun using Bitcoin because it's cheaper than other systems, not because it is private or fast.

Bitcoin also has a serious problem with governance. The developers have essentially forked the software into two versions in response to disagreements over implementation details , and there is very little consensus on how to fix problems like scalability. It seems like any significant change in direction will result in a split among miners and users, which reduces everyone's confidence in the currency as these things can be done fairly easily by anyone with enough computers working together. This has already happened twice in the short history of Bitcoin, and if it happens again, there is no guarantee that any one version will win. (This points to a fundamental problem with all proof-of-work based cryptocurrencies: they are not very secure against censorship ).

It is possible to build better blockchains than Bitcoin. The most promising alternative is Ethereum which promises to be infinitely more scalable thanks to its use of a directed acyclic graph instead of blocks (directed acyclic graphs are also used in IOTA cryptocurrency). It also uses a consensus mechanism called "proof-of-stake" which is much less computationally intensive than mining or even traditional proof-of-work algorithms like SHA2. However, these techniques come with their own challenges. For example, proof-of-stake can potentially produce "nothing at stake" situations where the blockchain splits into multiple incompatible versions because there is no clear way to resolve disagreements between validators (miners).

However, some believe that Ethereum has a significant flaw: its programming language Solidity . This is based off of Javascript which means it suffers from many of Javascript's problems including inconsistent and often unpredictable behavior, overly permissive type handling, memory leaks, high computational costs when compared to compiled languages like C or Rust, and outdated web technology such as blocking I/O for every operation. Another downside is that Solidity does not have any efficient support for privacy-preserving computation, which is very important in a world where your smart contract might be handling millions of dollars worth of other people's money.

In conclusion, current blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum are nowhere near what we expect from the technology. They have serious security issues (e.g.: 51% attack , network split), their consensus mechanisms consume huge amounts of electricity, they are not scalable and their programming languages may be fundamentally flawed (including Solidity). Clearly these problems could be addressed to some degree by clever software design or economic incentives, and that is what we aim to achieve with TeaProject.