A Cowboy History of the Internet

Explore the intertwined history of cybernetics, the internet, and agriculture with RS June and Texas Slim. Embrace decentralized solutions to safeguard our digital and nutritional future.

A Cowboy History of the Internet

RS "Ruffshot" June is Creative Director of The Beef Initiative, Executive Director of Texas Slim's Cuts, and Editor-in-Chief of Beef News. He's also Founder of the Florida Beef Initiative with Leonard Horak of Circle 6 Farm. He hails from Philadelphia.

June 1, 2024

Preamble: Feeding Forward

In today’s world, the essence of the internet, data encryption, and even the decline of consumer access to local food producers can all be traced back to a singular historical moment: World War II. It was during this pivotal time that the roots of cybernetics were planted, shaping our modern understanding of control, communication, and systems theory. Originating in wartime efforts to create more effective anti-aircraft systems and later expanded to human psychology and social systems, cybernetics introduced a philosophy of centralized control. This philosophy has, over the decades, trickled down into various facets of our lives, including the ways we interact online and how we access essential resources like food.

The centralization born from cybernetics hasn’t just altered the technological landscape; it’s been pivotal in reshaping our ideologies and even our nutritional habits. Like the intricacies of a spider’s web, this centralized system has spun a complex narrative that’s impacted consumer access to local food, creating a feedback loop of nutritional starvation and herding us into large-scale, centralized systems.

To break free, we need a fundamental pivot, a reorientation around a new axis—one that prioritizes decentralized control, individual freedoms, and community well-being. This isn’t merely an about-face; it’s a call for introspection and profound transformation that transcends the digital to impact every aspect of our lives.

It’s here where the cybernetic concept of “feedforward” comes into play. Unlike a feedback loop that reacts to past events, feedforward anticipates and prepares for the future. In cattleman terms, it’s like sending a scout ahead to navigate the best path, offering the trail boss information to proactively guide the journey. By adopting a feedforward approach, we can foster decentralization and pave the way for local food producers to regain market access, thereby reclaiming our digital and nutritional sovereignty.

As we journey through “A Cowboy History of the Internet,” helmed by Trail Boss Texas Slim and anchored in the Cypherpunk Movement’s principles, remember that the challenges we face and the solutions we explore are not merely digital. They are, fundamentally, human. So saddle up and join us as we seek ways to regain control over our digital lives and, by extension, our ideological and nutritional well-being.

Shake Your Rancher’s Hand

Support regenerative ranching with the Feeding Forward Beef Box Collection from The Beef Initiative! By purchasing these premium beef boxes, you’re helping ranchers turn their beef sales into tax deductions through the I Am Texas Slim Foundation. Enjoy delicious, high-quality beef while contributing to a sustainable and decentralized food future.


Cypherpunks write code. We know that someone has to write software to defend privacy, and we’re going to write it.

— Eric Hughes
The Cypherpunk’s Manifesto, 1993


Introduction

In these times, understanding the internet is as essential as knowing the unspoken rules of the cattle drive. My name is RS “Ruffshot” June, the Executive Director of Texas Slim’s Cuts (The Creative Agency behind The Beef Initiative) and Founder of BeefNews.org. Alongside Trail Boss Texas Slim, we’ll guide you through the complex terrains of code, digital rights, and evolving technologies. Our journey marries Texas Slim’s insightful work “A Cowboy History of the Internet” with the privacy-focused principles of the Cypherpunk Movement. Together, they paint a vivid picture of how the internet has morphed over time, its impact on our lives, and the critical role it plays in the freedoms we value.

For those unfamiliar with the lore of The Great American Cattleman, Texas Slim gave me the name “Ruffshot” for a reason. In cattle drives, a Rough Shot is a trusted individual who rides miles ahead of the herd to scout for obstacles, threats, or any other impediments. After this reconnaissance, he returns to the trail boss—Texas Slim in our case—with a mapped-out plan of action. The trail boss then makes the final call on the course to take. This relationship is symbiotic, built on mutual respect; respect for the trail boss’s wisdom and for the vision of the rough shot. This dynamic serves as a fitting prelude to our exploration of “A Cowboy History of the Internet.”

Texas Slim, the CEO of the Beef Initiative and my co-pilot at Texas Slim’s Cuts, is a seasoned navigator of the digital frontier. He introduces us to the internet’s early years, a time less shaped by Silicon Valley and more akin to an open prairie—a space of text-based conversations and open-source aspirations. Unfortunately, this landscape has now largely been fenced off by big tech companies.

We’re not going to go to that fourth and that fifth and that sixth layer that they’re trying to herd us into: Web 3. What we’re going to do is we’re going to pivot back down; we’re going to get back to the source of the seed of where all this came from within technology.”

-Texas Slim, “A Cowboy History of the Internet

Complementing this is the Cypherpunks, who, armed with cryptography and a steadfast belief in privacy, champion the internet as a bastion of personal freedom and autonomy.

With these two perspectives in hand, we will dissect the underlying technologies of the web, like TCP/IP and DNS, while critically examining the societal implications of data centralization and monopolistic influence. Our ultimate goal? To sketch out a roadmap for reclaiming the internet as a space of freedom, nurtured by its decentralized origins.


What are the Layers of the Internet?
  1. Layer 1 – Physical Internet Wires: This is the foundational layer that consists of the physical infrastructure like cables and switches that make up the internet.
  2. Layer 2 – TCP/IP and DNS: This layer contains the core protocols that enable the internet to function. TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) is responsible for data transmission, while DNS (Domain Name System) translates human-readable domain names to IP addresses.
  3. Layer 3 – Big Tech Giants: This layer is dominated by companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. They act as gatekeepers and have a significant influence on how we interact with the internet.
Definitions

TCP/IP

  • Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol: This is a set of rules that governs the way data packets are sent and received over the internet. It ensures that data reaches its destination accurately and efficiently.

DNS

  • Domain Name System: This system translates human-readable domain names (like www.beefinitiative.com) into numerical IP addresses that computers can understand (like 64.202.160.0 which is the NSA’s IP over at GoDaddy)

Application Layers

  • These are software components built on top of Layer 3 that provide various services and functionalities. Examples include web browsers, email services, and social media platforms.

Censorship

  • This refers to the practice of suppressing or controlling content on the internet. In the context of Layer 3, big tech giants may employ censorship mechanisms to filter, block, or promote certain types of content.

Big Tech Giants

  • Companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter that have a significant influence on how we access and interact with the internet. They are often considered the new gatekeepers of the online world. They exist on the 3rd layer.

Section 1: The Dawn of the Online Age and Evolution of Internet Protocols

Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf

Rewinding the clock to the early 1980s, we find the actual groundwork of the internet being laid. This wasn’t merely a Silicon Valley phenomenon: the development of TCP/IP, which became the standard for ARPANET as of January 1, 1983, was a collective endeavor involving a variety of institutions across the country. Pioneers like Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf were instrumental in this effort, and it was about more than just young tech cowboys dreaming big—it was about collaborative ingenuity aimed at decentralization and freedom.

The same holds true for DNS, which was developed by Paul Mockapetris. DNS simplified the way we interact with the internet, making it accessible to everyday users. This was no small feat and shifted the internet from a specialist tool to a public utility.

Yet as we all know, the best-laid plans often go astray. Over time, we’ve seen increasing efforts by powerful tech companies to centralize the internet, which has led to a new dichotomy. The internet now has dual potential: it can either serve as a tool for individual freedom or as an apparatus for corporate-state control.

The key question we aim to address here is whether these two visions of the internet can coexist. We argue that by refocusing on the foundational protocols and principles that guided its early development, we can reclaim the essence of the internet as a space for individual freedom. It’s a mindset thang.

Section 2: Philosophical Foundations and the Rise of Big Tech

Opinion | Was Frederick Hayek a Bernie Sanders Socialist? | Common Dreams
Friedrich Hayek

The foundations of the internet are not just circuit boards and code; they’re also deeply rooted in philosophical ideals. Folks like Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek and his High-Tech Hayekian disciples have profoundly shaped these ideals. Their advocacy for decentralization and individual empowerment echoes the internet’s original mission to serve as a tool for human freedom.

However, that philosophical core has come under siege, notably from big tech corporations like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Their rise to prominence has shifted the landscape dramatically, steering the internet from its decentralized origins toward a more centralized model focused more on profit than privacy.

Texas Slim, never one to mince words, has been outspoken about this drift away from the internet’s founding principles. He emphasizes the crucial need to understand the internet’s underlying architecture. By reorienting ourselves toward cornerstone protocols like TCP/IP and DNS, Texas Slim contends that we can resist the centralizing pull of big tech and reclaim the web as a realm for personal freedom.

This sentiment is echoed by advocates of the Cypherpunk Movement, who view cryptography as a safeguard for privacy and a counterweight to corporate overreach. Their philosophy dovetails with Texas Slim’s call for a return to the internet’s decentralized roots, reinforcing the idea that the fight for internet freedom remains very much alive.

Shake Your Rancher’s Hand

Section 3: The Birth of E-Commerce and Its Impact on the Beef Industry

The internet’s ascent didn’t merely alter the ways we connect and communicate—it also revolutionized business transactions. Take the American Information Exchange (AMEX), for instance, a trailblazer in the evolution of online markets. This new commercial frontier impacted a wide range of sectors, including ones as traditional as beef production.

As a Modern-Day Cattleman, Texas Slim offers a lens on this intersection that you won’t find in a tech company boardroom. E-commerce, with its borderless marketplaces, presented both opportunities and pitfalls for the beef industry. While it expanded the customer base, it also further centralized commerce and financial systems, often pushing small ranchers to the margins in favor of massive corporations.

Not one to sit idly by, Texas Slim rolled out The Beef Initiative. This endeavor aims to harness the internet to benefit cattle producers in ways that break the mold. It proposes shifting away from the parts of the internet monopolized by big tech and returning to foundational layers and protocols. In doing so,The Beef Initiative offers ranchers a framework for protection, effective marketing, and data-driven decision-making, helping to decentralize the industry once more.

Though the Cypherpunk Movement is mainly focused on safeguarding digital liberties, they find common ground with Texas Slim’s ethos. Both narratives advocate for using the internet as it was initially envisioned—a decentralized landscape that empowers individuals rather than accumulating power in the hands of a few.


This concludes the first part in our series called A Cowboy History of the Internet. In the next part, we’re going to learn how we are pivoting the Beef Industry back towards the foundational layers of the internet. BeefNews.org is part of that pivot and we’re glad you’re here with us.

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