A Self-Organizing System

Simplicity is strength. From basic elements and a simple set of rules, sophisticated structures with integral security, adaptability and resilience can emerge, thanks entirely to the simplicity of their building blocks.

Examples are all around us, if we care to look. Ants are not, as far as we know, mathematicians, engineers, doctors, epidemiologists or military tacticians, but by following a few biochemical rules and role specialisations, these simple creatures organise themselves into sophisticated colonies of thousands or even millions of individuals. They build elaborate nests, solve complex problems such as fording rivers, guard against disease and enemies, and colonise new territories. Present in almost every country on Earth, the humble ant is one of the world's most successful creatures.

We can learn a great deal from ants, bees, fungi and other self-organizing systems in nature. The key lesson is that, given the right conditions, robust, resilient and highly complex systems can evolve naturally from individuals grouped into small units that know nothing of the big picture.

Unfortunately, this lesson has not always been learned by technologists and engineers, who are too often attracted to grand ‘theories of everything’ and total control, and who have to resort to kludges when, inevitably, reality doesn't conform to their equations. They build complex systems based on complex elements and the layers of fixes make them more complex still. The result: insecurity, incompatibility, instability, inefficiency and incomprehensibility, not to mention expense.

The Autonomous Network

Inspired by the self-organisational prowess of ants, Autonomi creates a secure, resilient network of devices, connected and governed by simple rules yet capable of storing, protecting and delivering humanity's data in perpetuity without any human involvement at all.

Autonomi is the vision of MaidSafe, a Scottish software company with two decades of experience in the field of decentralized computer networking. It is an autonomous peer-to-peer network created by linking together users' computers and smartphones. It's designed to address many of the current technical, managerial and societal problems exacerbated by the centralization of control of the web by a few powerful actors, namely intrusions into privacy, poor data security and censorship.

Anyone with a connected device can use the Network anonymously to store data, and anyone can supply their spare storage and computer resources to the Network. It's a globally accessible infrastructure assembled from everyday things.

Autonomi is a surface on which new digital worlds can be constructed.

This guide outlines how it's is constructed to achieve these aims. While it is somewhat technical in places, it's intended very much as an overview, and even those with very little technical knowledge should be able to gain a good working understanding of Autonomi. For those requiring more depth, there are plenty of pointers as to where they can find the relevant information.

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