I really enjoyed reading Dame Wendy Hall's paper "Four Internets: the geopolitics of digital governance". I had not previously thought of the internet as being divided before but after reading the paper it seems very clear that the internet is divided into "governance regions" and the implications are significant for our futures and for how AI technology will develop and spread.
The four internets in the paper are: the Brussels bourgeois internet, "where trolling and bad behaviours are minimized and privacy protected"; the Beijing authoritarian internet which is "authoritarian and where technologies of surveillance and identification help ensure social cohesion", the commercial internet of US Republican governance which "understands online resources as private property whose owners can monetize them, exclude others from using them and seek market rates"; and the Silicon Valley open internet which is "driven by technology" and where problems are expected to have technical solutions rather than regulatory solutions. As an add on there is "Moscow's spoiler model" where, using the power of bots, the internet is exploited to "import uncertainties and obfuscations from Russian politics into Western politics".
Dame Wendy argues that "the competition to establish which, if any, of the four internets will prevail is likely to be strong and not always focused on win-wins".
After reading the article I was dismayed at the divisions which exist in approaches for governing the internet. Since the internet is infrastructure that is used to serve society the implications of the divided governance are significant.
Perhaps we need to remember those things which do unify nations, and which nations already agree upon, despite the divided internet. One of the things which gives unity is the patent system. The patent system serves society in many ways and it is used by over 150 nations. Patents provide a universal language since they are freely available publications that are written in the same format and according to the same general rules and protocols. Therefore the patent system is very important as a way to help unify society.
The internet is not a monolithic technological creation, but a congeries of systems, protocols, standards, hardware and organizations.