Children of the Cloud

Most of my recent innovation work has been in the area of mobile cultural media and professional networking, so I’ve had my head in the clouds for a while.

I’m particularly enthusiastic about cloud learning, not so much for many of the reasons already put forward, but mostly for the inevitably changed and enhanced relationship that all individuals will have with the web, and even themselves, because of the cloud.  

Without diving too deeply into the theory, the human brain is an intensely self-referential system.  It operates like a huge app store where most of the apps act as strange loops.  Just about the only restriction on our brains is that they have been entirely self-contained so far.  The cloud changes this forever.  We will soon have all kinds of apps operating exclusively for us, like extra-sensory perceptions, providing new and enhanced forms of self-referential feedback that will dramatically extend our sense of identity.  Facebook is an example of some of the first dimensions of this in the social domain.  For me then, the excitement of the cloud is therefore about a transformative extension of the social web into a personal web.  And from there into previously incredible learner-centered opportunities.

What could such ‘cloud-augmented individuality’ look like?   Consider the possibilities of continuously-refined, completely private, and entirely personalized search engines, noise filters, social media analytics, and augmented memory, to name a few.  A few days ago Kyle mentioned some of the buzz around the Apple iPhone4’s re-engineered “Siri” tool.   Well, once you get around the geekyness of Siri, and many of the areas where it doesn’t work well yet, you start to understand the potential of owning your own personal digital assistant operating for you 24/7 in the cloud, like your own genie.  We barely have the slightest clue about what this will feel like for everyone, even a couple of years from now. 

And while the concerns of privacy and security have already been referred to many times this week, I’m not especially worried about them relative to equivalent threats in the real world.   We will have to fight for them, be vigilant about them, possibly even occupy the Internet in order to preserve them, but I sense that the unprecedented personal potentials and advantages of cloud computing will naturally make everyone inclined to value these rights more than we do now on the web, and perhaps soon even more than we do in the real world.   I expect that this personal web transformation will lead to a level of emancipation that humankind hasn’t felt since starting to climb out of serfdom in the middle ages.  We won’t give that up easily.

And, as always, I’m only wrong 99.9% of the time.

I’ve just had a chapter with the above title accepted for publication, so if anyone wants to read more and critique heavily, please email me for a confidential copy.


Posted in: Week 08: Files in the Cloud