My name is Nick Merrill/elsehow. I study the internet—who actually runs it, and who should run it.

The purpose of my work is to foster meaningful, binding, and inclusive popular control over technology. I view the internet as an entry point for that control.

Where to begin?

These are some popular posts. They’ll introduce you to how I think.

Why I’ve Been Offline

This Internet, on the Ground

Governable Internets

What and Why is DAO DAO?

What Cybersecurity Is and Why You Should Make It Your Life

Current projects

  • Who controls the internet? I direct the Internet Atlas project at the U.C. Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity, which seeks fine-grained answers to this question. Our purpose in asking it is to imagine alternatives: who could control the internet, and how?

  • AI fairness. I founded Daylight.AI along with three former students. We make “flight simulators” for AI fairness. The internet’s core is increasingly mediated by AI. Also, the internet is the medium through which AI learns and operates. We need trustworthy AI to govern the internet, just as we need a governable internet if we are to have trustworthy AI.

  • Tools for co-operative ownership and control. I am a founder and worker-owner of DAO DAO, a digital cooperative that builds tools to manage digital cooperatives. Our tools give organizations direct, binding, and verifiable democratic control over software.

I consult at the intersection of these concerns. I’ve advised the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), U.S. Congressional aides and chiefs of staff, U.S. Executive Branch officials, large consulting firms, and a variety of policymakers in the English-speaking world.

Email to Image Generator

Past projects

  • ML Fairness Bootcamp. My ML Fairness Mini-Bootcamp was the first (and is, as far as I know, the premiere) hands-on curriculum in AI bias. Versions of these materials are taught to thousands of students and policymakers worldwide annually.

  • Measuring Internet Fragmentation. My data on internet fragmentation and control has been used by NGOs and government agencies worldwide. Our work has been covered widely by news outlets internationally, including CNN, CBS, The Hill, and many more.

  • Adversary Personas. Who might do you harm? This is the question posed by Adversary Personas, a threat modeling practice I developed with my lab. Government agencies and companies worldwide, including Meta, use versions of this practice to manage risk.

  • Passthoughts. Logging into things with your brain! During my Ph.D., I worked on passthoughts, the world’s first three-factor, single-step authentication paradigm. Our work was covered by over 300 media outlets internationally, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CBC, BBC, The Los Angeles Times, ABC, CNBC, CNET, Wired, TechCrunch, Xinhua, and many more. Of the lot, NEO.LIFE produced by far my favorite graphic:

Illustration by Igor Bastidas for NEO.LIFE

About me

I received my Ph.D. from the U.C. Berkeley School of Information. My adviser was John Chuang.

All of my papers should be available on Google Scholar without a paywall. If you find a paper you cannot access, please let me know.

I live in xučyun, the traditional territory of the Ohlone people, who have still not been recognized by the U.S. federal government. If you do too, check out ‘oṭṭoy/Cafe Ohlone and consider giving shuumi.

Any liberatory struggle we might hope to achieve in our lifetimes will require a trustworthy communications network. That network will be an internet. But perhaps not this internet.

ewweh ṭuuxi huyyuwiš (brighter days lie ahead)

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Any liberatory struggle we might hope to achieve in our lifetimes will require a trustworthy communications network. That network will be an internet. But perhaps not this internet.


Nick Merrill