On Cloud Intelligence

El Oso

An excerpt:
…”Kevin Kelly calls Wikipedia, Flickr, and Twitter the “vanguard of a cultural movement”, an emerging “global collectivist society.” Amateur photographers, he reminds us, have published over three billion photographs on Flickr. Six billion videos are uploaded to YouTube every month. The blog search engine Technorati tracks over a million blog posts published every single day. Apple’s pervasive iTunes media player serves over 125,000 podcasts, including more than 25,000 video podcasts.
The small minority of internet users who actively contribute content sure do contribute a lot of it. They review restaurants and businesses on Yelp. They fulfill the role of editors by recommending content on Delicious, StumpleUpon, Digg, and Reddit. They share their medical history on Patients Like Me and Google Health. They create high quality maps of their communities on OpenStreetMap and design 3D models of buildings, monuments, and landmarks using Google’s free SketchUp software. They report news just like traditional journalists. On Flickr they help the United States’ Library of Congress describe and contextualize the photographs in their collection. They translate blog posts, articles, magazines, and videos into different languages.
What is even more incredible is that they do this all for free, without receiving any economic compensation whatsoever. Hundreds of millions of internet users are spending a small amount of their day’s cognitive energy not on the work that they are paid to do, but rather the online projects and forms of self-expression that interest them. Kevin Kelly calls it a “New Socialism“, which is based on sharing and community, but not limited by political ideology. (The most active contributors of free content are as likely to idolize Adam Smith as Karl Marx.)
The Cloud: The Third Chapter of the Internet
A little over fifty years ago, Thomas Watson from IBM said that he could foresee a need for perhaps five computers worldwide, and we now know that that figure was wrong, because he overestimated by four.
Clay Shirky, Napster Speech 2
Whether you speak in terms of clouds, streams, or waves (the modern internet sounds like a naturalist’s dreamscape), the recent preview of Google Wave is indicative of a fundamental change that has transformed how we interact with the internet and how the internet enables us to interact with one another.
The modern web was developed in order to enable academics and scientists to share their research with one another. This was done primarily over email, but also with static (and often ugly) web pages. The second chapter began in the 1990’s when, during a bubble of investment, web programmers developed new technologies that made websites more dynamic by using databases, and more interactive thanks to JavaScript and Flash. The investment bubble burst, but those same technologies were implemented to create the tools that make up the internet as we know it today: wikis, blogs, RSS readers, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, Twitter, and Facebook.
We have now come to the third chapter of the Internet. The “cloud” refers to all those servers based around the world that store our personal data, but which we rarely ever think about. If you are a Gmail user, then your emails live “in the cloud”, on a server at one of Google’s many server farms. Our daily thoughts, in the form of Twitter messages, live in the cloud, as does our search history, our Facebook activity, all of the pictures we publish on Flickr and Picasa.
Just two years ago I stored all of my text documents on my own computer and would send them via email to anyone who showed interest. If they made edits to my documents, then I would need to update my own local copy. Today my documents are stored “in the cloud”, on Google Docs, where they can be instantly accessed by trusted friends and colleagues. At any time I can access the most recent copy of any document on my computer or mobile phone. Today we don’t just publish information to the internet; we actually create it online and then download it to our computers and cell phones when we need it.
The cloud is growing exponentially. Every day more and more of us spend a small percentage of our cognitive energy to add value to the cloud. And as we do so, the cloud itself becomes more intelligent, a vast social brain in which every internet user is a metaphorical neuron. In fact, the structure of the internet and the processes it depends on is similar to that of the human brain…”
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