February 13, 2008 Ben Peters

Another note toward a Soviet Internet

Not only did queueing theory—or the mathematical study of waiting in
lines that inspired packet-switching, the heart of Internet-style
distributed digital networks—resemble a Soviet way of life, it built
on the work of the early 20th century Russian mathematician Andrey
(his last name means Carrot by the way). “Markov chains”
deal with
stochastic, or probabilistic, processes for organizing event
they make
thinkable instantaneous change across fixed
states in probabilistic
systems and they precede Shannon's line "At
given time either X = 0 or X = 1." Shannon, in turn, cites and
builds directly on Markov chains
in his thesis work on electrical
modeling of information processes.

Even if it turns out the US military had the idea for a distributed computer
first, the intellectual inheritance from and social resonance across
a spectrum of scientific fronts
in Eastern Europe (Markov chains in
information theory,
queueing theory, packet-switching, Kolmogorov’s
biology in Wiener’s
already seems worth a story.

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