The Future Is Cloudy

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about data recently. It’s not just reading books like The Information or Mirror Worlds (or Super Sad True Love Story, a science fiction novel that is both compelling and scary), it’s my day to day work, both at FM (where we deal with literally 25 billion ad calls and associated data a month), and in reporting the book (I’ve been to MIT, Yale, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and many other places, and the one big theme everyone is talking about is data…).

We are, as a society and as individuals, in the process of becoming data, of describing and detailing and burnishing our dataselves. And yet, we haven’t really joined the conversation about what this all means, in the main because it’s so damn abstract. We talk about privacy and fear of big brother, or big corporations. We talk about Facebook and whether we’re sharing too much. But we aren’t really talking – in any scaled, framed way – about what this means to being humans connected in a shared society, to be in relationships, to be citizens and consumers and lovers and haters….

There are so many wonderful micro conversations going on about this topic, spread out all over the place. I’m hoping that when my book appears, it might be a small step in joining some of these conversations into a larger framework. That’s the dream anyway.

Meanwhile, this report caught my eye (hat tip to the ever interesting newsletter guru Dave Pell and his NextDraft): Can’t Define “The Cloud”? Who Cares? It quotes a study that found:

….most people have no idea what the cloud is, have pretended to know what it means on first dates, and yet effectively all respondents are active cloud computing users.

It continues:

And that’s the way this stuff should work.

I get the point, but in a sense, I utterly disagree. If we as as society do not understand “the cloud,” in all its aspects – what data it holds, how it works, what the bargains are we make as we engage with it, we’ll all be the poorer for it, I believe. (For one aspect of this see my post on the Cloud Commit Conundrum). More on this as the Fall approaches, and I settle into a regular habit of writing out loud for the book.


4 thoughts on “The Future Is Cloudy”

  1. It’s raining Big Data across the web. But i have to agree with you when you say “it’s so damn abstract”. A simple example – Twitter and Facebook has so much data about me but the recommendations they show me does not make sense
    most of the times.

  2. Here’s a simple example. If the government visits your place of work or where you live and gets a subpoena to get data off your hard drive, you know about the intrusion, where it came from, and there’s a readily-available body of work and associated experts that can counsel you on what to do next. But thanks to the cloud, the government can do exactly the same thing by visiting your vendor, getting the information that you have asked to be copied from your hard drive, and you might never, ever know.

    Why is this so important?

    Increasingly, country C is going to be more aggressive about asking company G for information about their end users, many of whom may not even be citizens of country C, in exchange for access to their country. Sovereignty is to countries what privacy is to individuals.

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