Cloud Computing, an opportunity for the environment?

One of the hottest topics these days on the internet technology front is the irresistible raise of Cloud Computing. There is not a week that goes by without some  kind of news on the subject.  For those who still don’t know what this new buzz word is all about, Cloud Computing is essentially a new paradigm where data and software do not sit anymore on the end user computer, but reside in a “cloud” of servers somewhere in the network.

Several major industry players started to place their pawns on this foreseen huge emerging market and a new breed of start-ups is jumping on the wave. Mega data centers are being built and cloud applications are already common, more and more ready to replace good old Uncle Bill’s stuff and to do much more.

One of the many possible impacts Cloud Computing may have on our digital consumption habits will be on the kind of devices needed to access data and applications in the Cloud. Full fledged all mighty computers won’t be essential anymore. Simple devices, with high-speed communication, display and input interface, a bit like the terminals of the mainframe era, will be very much enough. And this kind of devices is already coming stronger and stronger into the market.

Not only we would not be forced anymore to invest ridiculous amounts of money on computers which capacities are most of the time barely exploited, but more importantly we would be a lot less the hostages of the technological obsolescence that has been the norm since the first IBM PC. You know, the kind of planned obsolescence which forces us, digital consumers, to change computer every few years just to keep up with technology’s “improvements”?

With Cloud Computing architecture, it is the Cloud that has the pressure to sustain the technological pace. As long as a “Cloud Terminal” is able to communicate, display information and interface with the user adequately, it is all that the consumer needs to use Cloud Computing. It is a lot more conceivable to design such device with good provisions against technological obsolescence than with the traditional PC paradigm. The industry only needs to agree on few standards that will be suited for several years. This might not be easy but it is nonetheless feasible.

Some might say that I’m excessively optimistic and that big evil corporations will still find ways to force consumers into constantly changing and upgrading their cloud computers? This is most probably true. Still, it is an opportunity.

It is an opportunity for consumers, and maybe more importantly, an opportunity for the environment. Our consumption society made a lot of progress towards recycling which is very good. But it is far more efficient to try to solve the problem at the source, and stop using hardware, full of toxic and unrecyclable waste, that has to be systematically thrown away after a few years only.

Like it or not, Cloud Computing is here to stay and its future looks bright, for the best and for the worst. By allowing consumers to be set free from the insane obsolescence pace of the traditional computer market, Cloud Computing offers a rare opportunity to make a small but significant step towards a more sustainable economy.

I really hope our society will seize this opportunity. For the good of our planet and for the good of our future.

The Hidden Power of the Web

The real power of the web can only be unleashed if we embrace its apparent inconveniences.

The full potential of the internet revolution our society is currently experiencing, and above all the untapped potential that we are still unaware of, can only be realized if we completely let go and embrace the apparent disadvantages that come with it. By “potential”, I refer not only to the technology, like the eluding Web2.0 or the much talked about Semantic Web, but above all the usefulness that can be achieved with these technologies.

As web citizens, we will have to accept some compromises, or what seem now like compromises, in order to get the full benefit of this revolution. Some of these compromises will be more difficult to accept than others, like the ones regarding our privacy. But it is the price to pay, and we will manage it just like we did in the past. We may not realize it, but regardless of the internet, our so called private life in our modern, centrally managed and closely controlled society, is a lot less private then it used to be not very long ago. Our great-grandparents would probably have been very uncomfortable with the kind of private life we claim to have these days. Along with this apparent erosion of privacy, institutions and watchdogs were created to ensure that our private data was used in a manner ethically acceptable to most of us. We managed and got used to it. Now it is natural. And that is what we need to do with the internet revolution: embrace the change but harness it. I’m confident that most people will agree at the end of the road that it will have been worthwhile.

Because the internet can change our society in a more profound and beneficial way than we can imagine. I deeply believe that it can help us make this world a better place. How exactly? I’m not sure. What I do know is that information and knowledge gives power. And, since the internet means more information and knowledge, the internet ultimately gives more power to the people. The web possesses the potential to profoundly change the economic and political balance of power in societies.

Furthermore, it will help us grow along the way. It can help us, as a society and as individuals, to become more mature and wise. Because we all need to become wiser in order to thrive in this new communication era. The internet is not for dummies. Among other things, critical thinking toward information, responsible digital consumption and digital community involvement need to become second nature to future web citizens. It is at these conditions only that this technology will be beneficial to humanity.

I realize that this scenario is far from being the only possible outcome. Countless pitfalls lay ahead. We may not succeed in becoming wiser; ruling classes may take control of the technology for its own profit; and the web could become just another tool of repression and alienation to the human race, and a powerful one indeed.

For one of the rare time in human history, we have at our disposal a tool enabling us to exert considerable power over the outcome or our future. It is up to all of us, web citizens, to seize this extraordinary opportunity.