The first time Yancey Strickler discussed his “dark forest theory of the internet”, I noted here that he didn’t really have Liu Cixin’s theory correct, since the axioms in Liu’s book don’t translate into what Strickler was trying to illustrate..

On the internet, the axioms in play aren’t a civilization’s need for survival and the finity of resources. Instead, we might look at it from the standpoint of two other premises.

  1. Each person’s goal is connection.
  2. Attention is finite.

If we take these as the axioms, we aren’t looking at a “dark forest” and the dangers of a preemptive war between civilizations due to finite resources and impossible communication.

He recently came back around to the idea and somehow he’s managed to jumble things up even more.

In The Three Body Problem series, author Liu Cixin presents a solution for the dark forest threat: a “black domain.” This device slows the speed of light to create a cloak of invisibility around a planet or galaxy. A black domain stops everything from getting in or out. It’s security through cosmic self-imprisonment.

Before, we were “retreating to our dark forests of the internet, and away from the mainstream” (which didn’t make any sense), but now Strickler’s decided that we’re retreating into the “black domains” which in Liu’s book are spaces into which civilizations can retreat in order to avoid detection by other civilizations.

His new formulation actually is more consistent with his original thesis that when faced with the increasing threats, suspicion, and abuse of the open, mainstream internet (the dark forest), more and more people are finding or creating safe spaces (black domains) in which they can find comfort and protection.

I still maintain that not all of these self-selected silos will remain entirely cut off from the wider internet, but I also want to add to my original thoughts that this mix of private and public spaces is nothing new. It’s just that, perhaps, with the rush of social media—gold for investors, endorphins for users–public spaces sort of took too much of the focus.

Once upon a time, I could spend my days on an internet-connected bulletin board system whose users talked amongst themselves but then also spend time engrossed in public Usenet discussions where all hell could break loose.

What’s happening in more recent days is that more and more people are rediscovering some of the internet’s earlier sense of balance.

Still undetermined is whether the rediscovery of more private spaces itself will be controlled (e.g. Facebook Groups) by the same tech companies that have managed to make such a hash of the public ones.