Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Abstract thought, liquid sky

I like to look at clouds, the way they change shape as they billow and fold, borne by the wind, sometimes fast, strung out thin as contrails, sometimes slow, humped up tall as mountains, occasionally bringing a threat of rain and thunder, more often though acting like a herd of cows, mobbing each other, always one off by itself, turning slowly this way and that, the loner, but not alone for long, as the whole assembly suddenly takes on a new set of shapes. But I can't look for long, lying back in the hammock, it's too disorienting, the pleasant sensation of floating, watching the clouds go by, released from the world of gravity, ungrounded. As though this were the most natural thing in the world for an adult to be doing, supposedly an adult anyway. Cloud watching, what a sport.

So many many stories of thwarted desires or sadly cut-off dreams, when the dreamer wakes suddenly to the adult world of struggle, of work, of anger and anxiety. Phone calls, doorbells, car doors. Wrenches fused tight by rust, swearing. Dammed up sexual drives blossoming into hatred. Speed.

And now we have cloud computing, just like we have a power grid, not seeing the mountain-top mining in Appalachia, or the coal-smoke over Kearny, or the tankers coming into Port Elizabeth, or the overheated water around Three Mile Island, yes, those are all part of the grid, you see, but for us, sitting in our kitchens, there is nothing but putting that little plug into its little socket, and drawing out a little juice from the big power grid. Just a little juice, taken from the grid. The fridge and the TV, the computer and the radio, the cell phone charger and the A/C, the lamp and the fan, the dryer and the toaster, the timer and the alarm, the stereo and the printer, the microwave and the hair-dryer, the washer and the garage door, the track lighting and the razor, the thermostat and the vacuum. The power grid. A utility.

Yes, now we have cloud computing, access the cloud and we're on our way, apps in the cloud, files in the cloud, communication in the cloud, collaboration in the cloud, life in the cloud, head in the cloud. Access the cloud and we're good to go, photos and music, worklists and playlists, billowing shapes and mobs of words, it's all one, through the cloud we're all connected to The One Big Computer in the Sky. Shaped to our need, moving at our speed, delivering services wherever, whenever they're needed. Personal device to personal device, group tool to group tool. No more installing, no more booting up, no more help desk, no more local storage. It's all in the cloud.

Lie back,
put your head on my pillow, and look up. Those shapes, that movement, data in anywhere, data out anywhere, moving at the speed of light, or slow as thought, changing at whim, in milling mobs or galloping off alone. A utility and a dream. Look up and watch the cloud above you. You won't see the massive data centers, the heat-sinks, the switches, the boxcars of processors, the cooling equipment, the air-conditioned warehouses strung out along the rivers, with their terrible need for power. You'll only see the clouds, billowing, folding, seemingly frictionless, those analogy engines in the sky, as you lie back, dandled in your dreams of perfect computation. Tell me, poot, what do you make of those clouds? And what will you make?

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