We love email. This might sound like an odd statement of affection for a medium that is for many a source of stress and frustration, but for us email is a human medium and one that is due for a renaissance.
The Human Medium
For millennia people have exchanged all sorts of messages in the form of letters: quick memos, love letters, business proposals, scientific ideas, etc. Technology like email, when it is at its best, doesn’t try to change our behavior but helps us to accomplish that behavior more effectively. Contrast this with something like social media, which with its artificial constraints shapes human behavior to fit the technology rather than the technology to fit human behavior. Because email fits so well into our existing paradigm of behavior it is merely a continuation of a venerable trend. This has, along with other properties of email, led to its surprising resiliency over virtually every other form of communication online.
Despite many claims that email is outmoded and needs to be superseded by something better, email has quietly remained the most popular “social network” of all, surpassing even Facebook in terms of active users. Email has been around for decades and its intransigence in the face of Big Tech attempts to scuttle it proves its robustness.
What makes email so robust? In a word, email is decentralized. Unlike the centralized communication platforms mentioned above, not everyone has to use the same email service in order to communicate:
email@example.com can contact
firstname.lastname@example.org without any issue. In practice, the fictitious
galilee.org are two separate email providers but those sending and receiving the emails don’t need to know this; it just works. If
bethlehem.com gets attacked by Herod, Mary can (with the help of Joseph, of course) sign up for a new email
@egypt.com and continue speaking with her cousin Elizabeth
@galilee.org. It is very difficult to take down the entire email network for this reason, which highlights one of the key benefits conferred by decentralization: resilience.
Freedom to Speak the Good
In addition to resilience, decentralization prevents the market dominance needed to control a given technology. All email service providers, often to their chagrin, are forced to inter-operate with all other email service providers if they wish to be able to exchange messages. With a decentralized technology like email it is far more difficult for a single entity to dictate what can be said on it.
Not only does the decentralized nature of email provide a bulwark against censorship, it also ensures that small businesses like Fidei can compete with larger corporations. At the end of the day, email is email no matter who is providing it as a service.
Just as the fact that bread is bread enables anyone with the requisite skills to become a baker, the fact that email is email allows anyone with the know-how to become an email provider. This means that just as we might seek to support our local baker who does not include artificial preservatives in his bread, even better if he shares our faith, we can seek out an email provider who does not analyze our email in order to target us with advertisements. Or, even better, an email provider who shares our faith.
This is why we created Fidei.
The Road Before Us
Technology and innovation have a profound impact on the culture around us. We need not (and must not) cede the innovation of technology, and hence the culture, to an unbelieving world.
Catholics have a robust history of innovating in virtually every field, whether it be in architecture, healthcare, science, literature, or myriad other domains. When we begin to build technology it will take on a different shape than that which we find today.
Ultimately, this is what we want to reclaim: innovation guided by the light of faith.