On my way down to the Bay Area from Portland, I made a trip through the Redwood National and State Parks of Northern California. These Coastal Redwoods have existed for over 20 million years and individual trees can live over 2,000 years. What makes these ancient giants so resilient?
They find strength in community.
Redwoods grow in groves, or “communities,” where the roots only go down 10-13 feet (3-4 m) before spreading outward 60-80 feet (20-27 m). In this phenomenon, survival is dependent on interconnection, meaning the roots intertwine and fuse with each other to provide resiliency against the threats of nature and share the resources necessary to thrive.
This lesson from the redwoods is directly applicable to the Internet. The “network of networks” would be nothing without interconnection or the shared resources of open standards and protocols. Expanding wider, not deeper, is essential to the resilience and strength of the ecosystem as whole.
An ecosystem is a community of diverse, interconnected elements that function as a single unit and are most effective when in a state of equilibrium, or homeostasis. There are a few critical elements that shape the environment of an ecosytem, but it takes all of the elements to bring health and balance. While individual elements may compete, their contribution to the balance makes the ecosystem and its individual elements better off. In the redwood forests, there are a large number of plants and animals that thrive in the secure, stable, and resilient ecosystem established by the networks of these amazing trees. Similarly, the Internet continues to be a phenomenal force, but it is the human elements of the ecosystem that establish and preserve the equilibrium that makes it so powerful.
This understanding of an ecosystem is essential to strengthening the multistakeholder model for the evolution of an Internet that is beneficial for all.