Don't get eaten in the forest

Exploring the shift towards private, home-based servers and networks in response to the generative AI era, prioritizing data ownership and privacy.


Jared Lukes

1/17/20242 min read

person standing near LED sign
person standing near LED sign

The Dark Forest Theory, Future Internet

The dark forest theory of the Internet suggests a shift to more secluded, secure online spaces, especially in the generative AI era. This movement, driven by a desire to escape the "trashiest" and most predatory parts of the Internet, marks a significant change. The idea of public spaces filled with generative misinformation and dark patterns becoming less appealing leads us toward a more underground, private approach to internet usage.

The Rise of Home Servers

Since 2015, the concept of the home server has been gaining traction. Contrary to the past, when maintaining a hardware server was a daunting task, technological advancements have made this more feasible. With CPUs plateauing in terms of rapid development and the advent of solid-state memory, home servers have become low-maintenance, efficient, and a practical choice for data storage.

An Evolution of Social Networking

Some of the value we initially got from our current social networks was their expensive operability on large servers, always-on data connections, and global distribution (CDN). Fast-forward to the present day and the possibility of efficient home servers is remarkable. With advancements like 5G and fiber optics at home, owning a server for data sharing, like photos and media streaming, is increasingly viable. This evolution could spur a larger trend of seeking data ownership and a shift away from traditional, ad-driven social media platforms.

The Future of Social Connectivity

Imagine a future where our social networks are based on interconnected home servers, managed through mobile apps. These servers could provide secure, authenticated connections, offering a personal and controlled social media experience. This concept challenges the current paradigm of social media, where user data is commodified (user as product), and proposes a more personal, ownership-driven approach (media as product).

Public Spaces and Anonymity Online

While public internet spaces won't disappear, their appeal might diminish due to the influx of generative content and misinformation. These spaces might become akin to the sketchy parts of a town, visited for specific, often dubious reasons. The future could see a balance between the need for anonymity and the desire for authenticity and trust in our online interactions.

The Evidence for Change

The growing popularity of mesh networks and companies like NextCloud, which offer private cloud office software, (as well as hardware servers) supports this shift. These trends indicate a move towards localized, resilient networks and a departure from the Silicon Valley cloud-service model. The focus is increasingly on network redundancy and data ownership, with the potential for city-wide or business-based mesh networks to ensure continuous iOT connectivity.