Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The end to end argument

Scott Brim posted today on the IETF mailing-list one of the best defense of the end to end argument:

> On page 9, you state, based on a citation from RFC 4924:
> "We believe that providing end-to-end transparency [...]
> is key to the success of the Internet." I think this
> statement needs elaboration. End-to-end transparency
> is not a reason for the success of the Internet.

I invoke Feynman and the "philosophy of ignorance". The reason you want e2e transparency is because you do not know what it might enable, and we want that. We _want_ to have uncertainty about what the future of the Internet is. We do not know what advantages or restrictions our decisions will bring in the future. The richness of the Internet experience has come about because we have given end users the capability to develop new ways of using it, and somehow managed to have got out of the way, so far.

Feynman said (among other things -- search for it):

Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on. It is our responsibility to leave the people of the future a free hand. In the impetuous youth of humanity, we can make grave errors that will stunt our growth for a long time. This we will do if we say we have the answers now, so young and ignorant as we are. If we suppress all discussion, all criticism, proclaiming “This is the answer, my friends; man is saved!” we will doom humanity for a long time to the chains of authority, confined to the limits of our present imagination. It has been done so many times before.
I am a long time advocate of the end to end argument and I wrote and talked about it in the past, so many thanks Scott for this.
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