The Relaynet Way
This document describes the guiding principles of Relaynet since its conception, which will help explain the rationale for many design decisions and future direction of the project, from both technical and non-technical perspectives.
Relaynet’s ultimate goal is to become the computer network on which humankind can truly rely. In concrete terms, that means providing all human beings with uncensored and timely communication anywhere in the universe – without impairing the fundamental rights of other human beings.
Realising a moonshot like that will require a great deal of effort, funding, collaboration with a wide variety of stakeholders and sustained discipline. It is therefore crucial to lay out the general approach to realise the full potential of the technology.
The principles below have been employed since the early conceptualisation of the technology, although most of them were initially tacit and then gradually elicited.
Wars are won by picking the right battles. We are surrounded by problems, but resources are always limited and each desideratum involves a series of compromises (including some which we won’t anticipate), so we must often say “no” to things we wish we could do.
Examples of battles worth fighting include:
- Collaborating with parties with whom we share a goal but not necessarily other goals.
- Delivering solutions that are just barely good enough.
In other words: Pragmatism is an imperative, but not a licence for unethical action or inaction.
- Necessity and convenience drive large-scale changes; ideology alone doesn’t. The only way to reach mass adoption is to give people and organisations a convenient solution to their problems, not an ideological reason to use a solution.
- Privacy, security and usability are equally important, but usability has veto power. When forced to choose, we’ll prioritise non-technical people over tech-savvy people.
- Effective solutions are driven by real problems. We technologists are particularly susceptible to get carried away by the potential of a new technology, but that often leads to projects whose impact doesn’t match their hype because the problem was made-up or an afterthought.
- Policy is the underrated sidekick of technology. Some problems can’t be solved with purely technical solutions, and some technical solutions could be made simpler and easier to use when combined with the right legal/contractual requirements.
- Financial incentives facilitate or accelerate mass adoption. Pooling resources will help us all share an ever-growing pie too.
- Empowering all humankind is our north star, and digital colonialism threatens it.
- No idea is too ambitious as long as there is a credible plan to realise it in small steps.