The world is becoming ever more connected with each passing second. While you were sleeping last night, 227,792 new internet users were added somewhere around the globe. A whopping 2.3 billion people, or 1/3 of our planet’s population, access the internet almost everyday. This presents a whole bunch of possibilities for the future, along with a host of potential problems.
We all know (or should know) about cloud computing, and how it will be utilized in the years to come. People will continue their mass exodus from local storage and move their data online, along with computer, tablet, and phone operating systems becoming cloud-based, gaming systems will utilize the cloud, etc, etc.
We’re already seeing this with Google’s popular line of Chromebooks, which don’t have any local storage, and provide the user with 100GB of online cloud storage, among other devices that use the cloud as a proprietary operating system.
So what makes this future so wonderful, and yet mildly chilling at the same time? The devil is in the details.
More connectivity is great for the environment and for monitoring changing ecosystems. With new apps coming out that allow users to report environmental disasters in their areas, as well as social media avenues like Twitter and Facebook that let users share real-time events with the world, our planet is evolving into the data web envisioned in the early years of internet.
The downside of the cloud, unfortunately, is the almost complete lack of privacy and bypassing of constitutional rights (PRISM, anyone?). We’re trading the convenience and luxury (and don’t get me wrong, it is a luxury) of sharing our every second with total strangers across the planet for the inability to keep our deepest, darkest secrets away from prying eyes.
Is it a risk we should take? Absolutely, just so long as we’re clear that our governments aren’t going to be copacetic with increased privacy. They’ll always try to find ways to skirt around the legality of tapping into citizen’s private phone calls, Skype conferences, and web searches. The issue at hand is finding a compromise we can all agree on.
Right now, it’s perfectly OK for the NSA to stalk a human being so long as they’re 51% certain that individual isn’t an American citizen. This means millions and millions of phone conversations have been compromised in the interests of security. That is not okay, which is why everyone and their grandmother has filed lawsuits against the government, and why the United States’ tenuous relationships with countries like Russia, China, the U.K., and others are eroding faster than they previously were.
The winner in all of this cloud migration is still the environment. Preserving our beautiful planet almost takes precedence above all other issues, or at least it should. Earth has been around for billions of years, and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But ecosystems we all enjoy, and specifically the ones that are necessary for Earth’s future, are still in danger of total annihilation (that commentary sounded pretty ominous, so I’m going to keep it.)
With the ability to add monitoring equipment we can check from our homes halfway across the globe, i.e. volcano monitors, ocean monitors, wildlife tagging, etc, it’s becoming increasingly easier to keep tabs on our changing world. This is why the cloud certainly is the future.
The path we’re on isn’t suddenly going to hit a dead end. The world won’t wake up one day and say, “You know what? I don’t think I care for this cloudy thing very much anymore.”
Innovation is an integral part of being human. However, it must be innovation designed with balance. You can’t build a spaceship without creating safety measures, likewise, you can’t develop an entire network infrastructure without understanding and planning for the good and the bad, which in this case is pretty black and white.
Being connected to everything at all times is good, but the government tracking you like a criminal is bad. Not only that, but it creates a sense of fear in every internet user, which hurts creativity. Who wants to join a social media network if they know the government has their spectacles on every post? And who wants to donate money to a “Save The Rainforest” fund if they know their transaction is being monitored as potentially supporting terrorism? Nobody does.
It’s up to us, the users and general public, to battle the government’s fear of change. Old habits die hard (just look at McCarthyism), which means it isn’t going to be easy. But making the public aware of the problem, working with your congressional representative towards a solution, and being a good citizen of the interweb all help.
In the end, what we’re left with is a wonderful (yet terrifying) future, in which today’s actions sculpt tomorrow’s standard of use.
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