Live from TED

Vint Cerf: Actually, the Internet’s going to be just fine

One of the perks of co-curating TED isn’t just getting to work with speakers, but also talking with brilliant people in the audience.

Danny Hillis gave a sobering presentation, “The Internet could crash. We need a Plan B,” at TED2013, sharing his worry about the exponential growth of the Internet. We need a backup plan, he said, should all else fail — or risk being plunged into a digital dark age. Who better to respond to this idea than Vint Cerf, who 40 years ago helped create the Internet? And whom I knew was sitting in the audience?

Vint agreed to answer a few questions about Danny’s talk from the stage. He shared his perspective on the evolution of the system he helped design, and gave us his own manifesto for what to do now. This video is an edited look at what he told us.

“Now, it’s absolutely true that the Internet is getting bigger and bigger, and more and more ubiquitous,” he told us. “It’s going to be in just about every appliance we can think of. The question is, does that mean it’s all going to collapse? I don’t think so. But I am willing to accept the proposition that we should think about that.”

Which he and many others are doing, he told us. One tactic, he says, is to ask, “If we started over and redesigned the network, what would we do differently? I know one thing I would do, I’d pick 128-bit address space instead of 32, so we wouldn’t have to go through the IPv transition. And I’d also work hard on more security. But the clean-sheet exercise lets you do two things. It lets you see what would you do differently, what would it look like, and then you can ask, well, can I retrofit any of those ideas into the existing network? That’s happening.

“The second thing, I think, is to ask the question, what could I do to create a communication environment that’s even better than the Internet?”

Watch the video for more insight and wit from Vint.