(Re-)decentralize the web with MoodleNet!

A particularly interesting article caught our attention recently: in Society Desperately Needs An Alternative Web, author Hessie Jones reports in Forbes on the recent Canada-United Kingdom Symposium On Ethics In Artificial Intelligence (EIAI-2019).

The article covers a lot of ground, but in particular adds to the growing chorus to re-decentralize the web. We tend to use the term ‘federated’ instead of ‘decentralized’ when talking about MoodleNet, mainly because of the unhelpful ambiguity between ‘decentralized’ and ‘distributed’. However, ActivityPub-based software like MoodleNet can play an important role in decentralizing our digital lives because it builds upon the proven usability and reach of the web and standards-based browsers.

Types of systems

In the light of Jones’ writing for Forbes, it’s clear that, whatever name you want to give to our approach, MoodleNet certainly is part of the solution to the problems we’re facing.

Technology precedes regulation. This new world has created scenarios that are unaddressable under current laws. There is a prevailing legal threat unleashed through the GDPR, however, there are aspects of it that some argue that may indeed stifle innovation. However, it’s a start. In the meantime, we need to progress so systems and governance are in sync, and tech giants are held in check. This is not an easy task. Who is responsible for the consequences of AI decisions? What mechanisms should be in place to ensure that the industry does not act in ways that go against the public interest? How can practitioners determine whether a system is appropriate for the task and whether it remains appropriate over time?

(Hessie Jones, Forbes)

Google announced last week that, because of Brexit, the data of their UK users would now be stored in the USA. Should existing users not like this, they could, of course stop using Google’s services. Except, of course, that products and services provided by trillion-dollar companies are almost indispensable to modern-day life.

As a result, we need to do things differently; this is where MoodleNet comes in. We need to design products and services that companies relying on surveillance capitalism are unable or unwilling to copy.

Adoption of a decentralized web cannot play by the old rules. New experiences and interactions that are outside of current norms needs to appeal to individual values, that enable trust and ease of adoption. Pulling users away from convention is not an easy task.

(Hessie Jones, Forbes)

To use a Star Wars metaphor, one way of thinking about this is that we are using tools provided by the Galactic Empire, when we should be resourcing and tooling-up the Rebel Alliance. Doing so goes beyond mere ‘elegant consumption’ and returns the web into the hands of its users.

While it’s still early days, for at least a decade many players have chosen to become part of this movement to fix the issues that increasing centralization has created. From Diaspora to Bit Torrent, a growing list of technologies continue to develop alternatives for the DWeb: for storage, social nets, communication and collaboration apps, database, cryptocurrencies, etc.

(Hessie Jones, Forbes)

While the main reasons educators may want to use MoodleNet are based on its usefulness to them in an everyday context, we’re pleased to be contributing to a wider mission. While AI can be useful when used appropriately, nothing beats human interaction within communities for the recommendation of resources and approaches to empower educators and improve teaching and learning!

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