Out of the Mist and 
Onto the Cloud
     January 2013    
  David Skinner

A brief history of man’s great pursuit and the role of technology 

Part I, of II, Posibly III 

Out of the Mist

During the darkest of the early days, human like creatures climbed down from African tree tops to the mist laden jungle floors below. They stood upright on two legs, shared primitive signals, used tools of flint and of flame. They set upon a quest, one of self-actualization. We have forever hence pursued.

To The Current Times

Fast forward 200,000 years, to an age of ubiquitous Internet connectivity. As Denizens all, we are connected . . .“One-to-Many ”, if not, “One-to-All”.  Our lives  are shared, digitized and posted; our commerce, culture and leisure are hosted on “The Cloud”.

Tribes long since have given way to Nation States; Guilds to Industry. Crafts to Organizations  and Pride to Productivity. Technology, information and networks compel society. The networks emerged, they ordinated, and evolved. They required authentication, identity and got it. For the most part, they reside and take refuse in "The Cloud".

“The Cloud” exists in a space not unlike where kites fly. It was if all this network activity were a single appliance, one all-mighty dynamic device. All in real time. As if meant to serve only you! Now the information is omnipresent and you begin to feel omnipotent. 

Companies such as Amazon, IBM, Google, Microsoft, and others, offer Cloud services to other major enterprises like Target and Netflix as well as to smaller companies and sole individuals such as yourself. Cloud computing had taken off like a flying kite, tethered to each and every information device any User may own. Things are flying high!

Defining “The Cloud" 

Official def: from the National Institute of Standards and Technology reads: "Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction."

Whether you want to peg "The Cloud" beginning in the 1960s when corporations shared expensive mainframe computers, then called “timesharing” or in the 1990s with the widespread acceptance of the the Internet is of little matter. In Internet terms, it's less than a nanosecond.

The principle behind what we call “The Cloud” and its role in the evolution of both man and machine is what concerns us here. Once that room-sized single user computer got personalized, miniaturized and replaced by desktop PCs, work became, individual, responsible and within personal reach. Work specific computer programs like word processing, financial applications and program management, etc. were loaded on your computer and data storage saved on your hard drive. This advancement had taken decades to arrive at, yet mere months to accept. Personal computing was born. The Modern Computer Age had emerged. We were still blinded to its importance, its full meaning -- yet obscure, this . . . . Coming of "The Cloud". What role would all this play in man's future was rarely considered more than a convenience. 

The Cloud Emerges As An Expression of Connectivity

As advances in Internet speed and usage accelerated in the early 2000s, large enterprise companies saw hosting of commonly used  programs as a more efficient format when served by interconnected farms of machines with internalized architecture, so much better than a single packet of information over a telephone line. These new synaptic centralized computer networks could connect “Any to All”, “All to Any”, “Any to Any” and “All to All” – and “All at the Same Time”! Diagrammatically represented as seen to the above right:

From this symbolic now iconic diagram came the term “Cloud Computing”. Whether it was commercial or individualized data, it could be crissed, crossed, hosted, tossed and turned as a service from a centralized location – no need to be duplicated on every desktop or shared in huge cumbersome main frames. Users were free to network, share, collaborate, isolate or synchronize their energies and data and its utilization rather than individually store, replicate and cipher the same information from place to place; from iPad, to cell, to home, to an office and back again by disc, instant connectivity of information not the hardware and this all became magically connected. 

It was as if, it were one appliance, one all-mighty dynamic device. All in real time - meant to serve only you! As fast as the information became omnipresent you became omnipotent. 

Companies such as Amazon, IBM, Google, Microsoft, and others, offered Cloud services to other major enterprises like Target and Netflix as well as to single or sole individuals. Cloud computing had taken off like a flying kite, tethered to each and every information device any User owned. Things were flying high!

An Example of "The Cloud" In Everyday Life

Instead of opening Microsoft Outlook on your desktop to check your email, you open your internet browser to Google Mail where you can also access or share and collaborate with personal as well as with office staff on documents, images, news and pretty much anything else you wanted in a collated manner of hierarchies with others in or out of your group of "friends". Simply sending email from a dedicated program installed on your PC became so ‘90s. All the information, documents, music, spreadsheets, social pages in the new millennium and beyond were now available on any computer device you signed onto, including your notebook, home computer, coffee shop wifi, Game Console, etc. “All connected to All” – “All the time and Anywhere!”. You only needed an account, a User Name and a Password. Wahoo!  The whole info Super Highway, so long before promised, now lay at our fingertips!  And don’t forget Facebook, SMS and Tweets! Oh My!

How Did We Get Here So Fast? The Exponential Path of . . . . n2

It was never fast nor was it ever straight. The line was an exponential one. While slow to start . . . Through the Early Ages of Man, the power of “ here and now squared” ( n2) became an immensely measurable and memorable element along with the advancement of technology, culture and society from the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. What appeared first as turmoil was actually disruptive, as revolution was evolution and all the while the beating of the drums of technology sounded in the background! Moore’s Law was in effect!

Defining Moore's Law

def: The speed of technology based upon on the transistor and integrated circuits doubles in approximately every 2 years. The law is named after Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore, who described the trend in his 1965 paper. His prediction has proven to be uncannily accurate, in part because the law has become a foretelling rule of thumb and as much as a guide in long-term planning and to set targets for research and tech development.

A profound example of Moore’s Law is offered by Ray Kurzweil in his video presentation at a recent TED event. (You'll  need to set aside 50 minutes for this enlightening video, that's less than watching American Idol - come on! ) His examples and explanations are important to fully realize the scope and meaning of the technological past. I take the risk of diverting your attention to his video at this stage. It is titled "The Web Within Us": When Minds and Machines Become One. It will certainly raise questions as to where we will be going next. Be sure to watch it and return to read the next of this edition and closing paragraph. Next month I hope to compile Part II, "The Cloud and Onto Beyond".  

In closing Part of 1 of “Out of the Mist and Onto the Cloud", we've arrived as near as possible to the ever evolving present moment and explained what for many was a baffling term – “The Cloud” – But that is not the rest of our journey. It is only the beginning!


In Part II, "Out of the Cloud and Onto Beyond", we'll visit with some of the great thinkers of our age, science fiction authors and futurist imagining what comes next. 

We’ll address Kevin Kelly’s disturbing question, “What does Technology Want” and we’ll return to Kurzweil’s advancing theory of the “Singularity”. 

There is an unimaginable future ahead of us. I guess that's why they call it the - future! What path will our journey of self-actualizing as a species follow? What future lies ahead? There are scientists and "thinkers" that speculate they know - but no better than you! Let's hear what they say and you say next month. 

And finally for some fun: “The Cloud” was first brought to our attention as early as 1965 by an alumnus of the London School of Economics in London. Here’s a glimpse into the past that some of you will remember.