The Internet, IPv6 and a World of Abundance

The size of the Internet just expanded exponentially on June 6, a date also known as World IPv6 Launch Day. Internet Service Providers and leading Internet companies like Facebook and Google are migrating to a new, parallel Internet that supports 340 trillion trillion trillion (yes, that's 2^128) Internet addresses – exponentially more than the current number of 4.3 billion (2^32) IP addresses. As John Curran, president of the American Registry of Internet Numbers, pointed out in the Los Angeles Times, the easiest way to visualize this staggering number is 340 trillion universes, each with a trillion networks, and each of those networks having a trillion devices hooked up to them. If, before, we were running out of IP addresses, exactly the opposite is true: we now have an Abundance.


And that’s where things get interesting because this exponential growth in the size of the Internet could finally usher in the Internet of Things – a world where every physical object is somehow hooked up to the Internet and is able to communicate with every other object. We’re not just talking about laptops, smart phones and tablets – we’re talking about your couch, your fridge and the coffee machine down the hallway from your office. As Peter Diamandis points out in Abundance, this Internet of Things means that "trillions of devices are all connected through a gargantuan network of sensors, each with its own IP address, each accessible through the Internet." Running out of milk? No problem, your fridge will order it for you online.  

The Internet of Things is a clear example of what's possible when you begin to think exponentially. Before, the Internet's network infrastructure was basically tapped out at 4.3 billion addresses. Given that the world is headed to 10 billion people and Cisco predicts that 18.9 billion devices will be hooked up to the Internet by 2016, it’s easy to see why the Internet had to grow. Instead of workarounds that conserved IP addresses by assigning multiple devices - and even multiple locations - to the same IP addresses, we now have 340 trillion universes to play with. When devices and sensors can be hooked up to the Internet, it means they can start sharing information: "Soon, companies will be able to perfectly match product demand to raw materials orders, streamlining supply chains and minimizing waste to an extraordinary degree. Efficiency goes through the roof."

In short, IPv6 - by leading to the Internet of Things - makes possible a world of abundance.

For more than 20 years, the Internet’s founding fathers (and mothers) have been preparing for the move to a new parallel Internet, with Google’s Vint Cerf among the most visible supporters. Back when the Internet was just getting its start, who could have possibly imagined we would need so many Internet addresses? Vint Cerf has already evangelized the migration from IPv4 to IPv6: "The Internet of Things holds the promise for reinventing almost every industry. How we manufacture, how we control our environment, and how we distribute, use and recycle resources. When the world around us becomes plugged in and effectively self-aware, it will drive efficiencies like never before. It's a big step toward a world of abundance."

TIME’s Techland blog called the migration to IPv6 “the biggest change to the Internet since its inception.” What makes this change all the more remarkable is that the average Internet user won’t notice anything different. In fact, if you do notice something different with the way the Internet is behaving, it means something has gone horribly awry (or, ahem, you need to re-boot your computer). All the major ISPs and all the leading Internet companies are pushing for IPv6 and research firms estimate that nearly one-quarter of the Internet will soon be running on IPv6. For now, IPv4 (the current standard) and IPv6 will run side-by-side, but will not be compatible. The BBC cheekily suggested it's like the difference between imperial and metric – you can measure stuff in pounds or kilos, but you always need to translate them into the other system for anything to work properly.

In many ways, the launch of IPv6 is a triumph of exponential thinking. 2^128 is an astoundingly huge number – imagine 340 followed by 32 zeroes. If we assume a global population of 9 billion and the average person surrounded by 1,000 to 5,000 physical objects, we would only need 45 thousand billion unique IP addresses, so IPv6 would appear to have us covered for now with its 340 trillion trillion trillion possibilities. By creating the basis for the Internet of Things, where every physical object has its own IP address, IPv6 has created the potential for the Internet to solve some of the world’s most intractable problems and usher in an era of abundance.

image: Connecting the Computer to the Internet / Shutterstock

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Lumina Foundation and Big Think have partnered to bring this entrepreneurial competition to life, and we hope you'll participate! We have narrowed down the competition to four finalists and will be announcing an audience's choice award and a judges' choice award in May.

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Finalist: Greater Commons - Todd McLeod

Greater Commons, founded by Todd McLeod and Andrew Cull, is an organization that helps people live happier, more successful and fulfilling lives through agile learning. The current education system is inefficient and exclusionary, in which many students who end up earning a degree, if at all, enter a career not related to their field of study. Greater Commons solves this problem and gap in post-high school secondary education in a variety of ways. Passionately and diligently, Great Commons helps others obtain skills, knowledge, wisdom, motivation, and inspiration so that they may live better lives.

Finalist: PeerFoward - Keith Frome

PeerForward is an organization dedicated to increasing the education and career success rates of students in low-income schools and communities by mobilizing the power of positive peer influence. PeerForward works with partner schools to select influential students as a part of a team, systemizing the "peer effect." Research in the fields of sociology of schools, social-emotional learning, adult-youth partnerships, and civic education demonstrates that students can have a positive effect on the academic outcomes of their peers. PeerForward is unique through its systemic solutions to post-secondary education.

Finalist: Cogniss - Leon Young

Cogniss combines technology and best practice knowledge to enable anyone to innovate and share solutions that advance lifelong learning. Cogniss is the only platform to integrate neuroscience, through which it solves the problem of access by providing a low-code platform that enables both developers and non-developers to build sophisticated education apps fast, and at a much lower cost. It addresses the uneven quality of edtech solutions by embedding research-based learning design into its software. App creators can choose from a rich set of artificial intelligence, game, social and data analytics, and gamification to build their perfect customized solution.

Finalist: Practera - Nikki James

Practera's mission is to create a world where everyone can learn through experience. Today's workplaces are increasingly dynamic and diverse, however, costly and time-consuming experiential learning is not always able to offer the right opportunities at scale. Many students graduate without developing the essential skills for their chosen career. Practera's team of educators and technologists see this problem as an opportunity to transform the educational experience landscape, through a CPL pedagogical framework and opportunities to apply students' strengths through active feedback.

Thank you to our judges!

Our expert judges are Lorna Davis, Dan Rosensweig, and Stuart Yasgur.

Lorna Davis is the Senior Advisor to Danone CEO and is a Global Ambassador for the B Corp movement. Lorna has now joined B-Lab, the non-for-profit that supports the B Corporation movement on an assignment to support the journey of large multi nationals on the path to using business as a force of good.

Dan Rosensweig joined Chegg in 2010 with a vision for transforming the popular textbook rental service into a leading provider of digital learning services for high school and college students. As Chairman and CEO of Chegg, Dan commits the company to fulfilling its mission of putting students first and helping them save time, save money and get smarter.

Stuart Yasgur leads Ashoka's Social Financial Services globally. At Ashoka, Stuart works with others to initiate efforts that have mobilized more than $500 million in funding for social entrepreneurs, engaged the G20 through the Toronto, Seoul and Los Cabos summits and helped form partnerships with leading financial institutions and corporations.

Again, thank you to our incredible expert judges.

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