Forbes recently ran an article entitled, “What Will the Operating System of the Future Look Like?” Well, I wasn’t satisfied with their rather generic, non-specific answer, much less their assertion that blockchain will have something to do with it:
“Blockchain isn’t necessarily something that stands alone. It seems more of a backbone technology, something we’d use as an operating system for a lot of other technologies… …blockchain may be just the operating system to use.”
No. Blockchain isn’t a backbone technology which you can use as any sort of operating system. Whoever said that doesn’t understand the first thing about the nature of blockchain, which is a way to link encrypted records such that each record is dependent on the previous record. It is “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way.” A portion of the record is visible, and a portion is encrypted, visible only to those who are party to the transaction. You can implement multiple areas and layers of visibility, encryption, and authentication for each transaction.
It’s a ledger, not an operating system.
Nor does blockchain lend itself to efficiently communicating between systems in a secure manner. Yes, it can do that, effectively and securely. No, it can’t do that efficiently, and furthermore, the size of the chain increases for every transaction. When communicating between various IT-enabled devices from your fridge to your smart phone to your bank account, motor vehicle, etc., you do NOT need a ledger. You DO, however, require rock-sold encryption and authentication for each communication “session.”
A session might be as short as something like this:
Dave: Hi, Bank Z, I’m Dave X and I’d like to transfer $200 from my ABC account to my XYZ account.
Bank: Hi, Dave X, you’d like to (repeats request). Do you confirm
Bank: Ok, I’ve (confirms request). Your new balances are…
Or, a session might involve the complex, thousands of times a second communications between three flight computers, five avionics computers, eighteen subsystems, several hundred sensors, hydraulic motors, electrical actuators and pumps, and inputs from two pilots, and via satellite, the corporate maintenance office. Even attempting to use blockchain for this would result in a very large and unforgivably slow system that would never get off the ground, much less fly halfway around the world.
Alternatively, the Intel i-family of processors already includes dedicated support for AES-256, which has never been cracked despite the best of attempts by the world’s top experts in its 17-year history since establishment by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2001. Furthermore, TLS (https://) 1.2 and beyond includes expansion of support for authenticated encryption ciphers, used mainly for Galois/Counter Mode (GCM) and CCM mode of Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption.
TLS provides privacy and data integrity between two or more communicating computer applications. Specifically, the connection is secured via symmetric cryptography with per-session keys between each pair of communicating devices initiated with a shared secret unavailable to man in the middle attacks. The identity of the communicating parties (devices) is authenticated using public-key cryptography. Finally, the connection is reliable because each message transmitted includes an integrity check using message authentication code to prevent undetected loss or alteration of the data.
Unlike blockchain, TLS is ideal for use in communicating between a very wide variety of computing devices, including the various systems aboard a modern airliner. Each device would be keyed with shared secret just once, and once keyed, the key cannot be read outside of the device itself. Before take-off systems checks include a full message security and authentication checks with all devices.
This same technology is already in use by many businesses around the world. It’s not an operating system. It’s a secure communications system.
The problem is, I would never use it aboard an aircraft because it is a computer and computers fail. This is why aircraft have hard-wired communication between components. They are physically protected and not open to the outside world, so they don’t require security. The few systems aboard an aircraft that are open to the outside world do employ secure communications.
So, back to what the operating system of the future might look like:
1. Files will be stored online and backed up locally. For speed, you’ll access the local files, which will keep the online files synced, but the online files, which are redundantly stored throughout cyberspace, will remain the masters.
2. User files will no longer be deleted. That’s not so the feds can get to them. It’s in case you change your mind ten years from now and realize your wicked mother wasn’t so wicked and you want to bring up the only photograph you ever had of her, the one you deleted ten years before.
3. Files will no longer have recognizable names. That photo you took at the wedding? It might be names 6tn3h2hHtPE7Ns2q4vosK. The first 12 characters are unique to the individual while the next 9 are unique to the file on the individual’s computer. Windows 10 currently allows 260 characters per filename, but in reality, using just 9 lower, upper, and number characters, you can generate a billion times more unique filenames than are currently required for a large Windows 10 installation. The first 12 characters allow some 300 trillion people each to have 1 million separate identities. But hey, I’m sure we’ll find other uses for more characters, so let’s make each filename 72 characters long. That’s still far below Windows 10’s maximum 260 character limit.
4. All files will be thoroughly cross-referenced, and the strength of those references will be pattered after the way our own brain associates memories. After taking video and photos at the wedding, you say, “All photos taken over the last three hours are from Karen’s wedding.” Your computer might recognize a name and ask you, “Karen who?” to which you reply, “Karen Johnson. She just married Zack Davis.” So now your computer knows her maiden name, married name, and husband, date of the wedding, and through facial recognition, the names of who attended. You can then ask, “Bring up pics of everyone at Karen’s wedding I don’t know,” and your computer will display all people for whom it has no names as cross-references.
5. The interface will be through retinal pattern transmitters. That’s a fancy term for saying a tiny 4k resolution (that’s better than your eyeball) RGBCYM laser projection that reflects its signal off a slightly silvered but mostly transparent “angled mirror” in front of your pupil. This device could equally be meta-material embedded in a pair of glasses that twists light generated along the rims and sends it to your eyes. Provided you’re in a safe situation (seated, not in a car, on a bike, etc.), you can select a black background for crystal clear images. Otherwise, the projection will allow your normal visual field to predominate. Those same glasses will include earbuds and a microphone. But your glasses aren’t the computer. They’re merely I/O devices. If you need a cursor, the same projection system always measures precisely where you’re looking, and a single tap on, say, a belt-mounted button, produces the same effect as a left click. Mice, keyboards, joysticks, touch pads, and other controllers will be available, as required.
6. “Your” computer will reside on your belt, your desk, or anywhere near to your I/O devices. All it is, however, is a local storage and processing device. Most apps will reside in the cloud, to which your local computer connects on a constant basis. Repeaters will be installed in every coffee shop, street corner, motor vehicle, airplane, etc. All files will be encrypted before leaving your device, and if they need to be worked on by one of the apps you rent in the cloud, they will be unlocked by your session key and personal credentials, worked on, then re-encrypted for safekeeping.
7. The cloud operating system and apps will not have direct access to the unencrypted contents of the files themselves. Rather, an app will “loan” it’s code to your personal node in the cloud where it will perform the necessary functions within your node’s protected space. Your unencrypted files never leave your security envelope, and only you can access them. No backdoors, with open source code any expert can verify. Furthermore, they’re backed up, so you never have to worry about losing your data again.
8. Since we are indeed a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and the Fourth Amendment’s protects against warrant-less and unreasonable searches of our “papers and effects” (this includes computer files), and since we have the technology to tell the feds to go jump in the lake, laws will change to suit the needs of the people, meaning individuals, in support of our freedoms, rather than the erosion thereof.
Well, that’s my 2 cents. 🙂