Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cloud Computing and the Singularity


Computing in the Cloud

Simply stated, cloud computing is Internet-based computing… whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices such as tablets and smartphones on demand… like the electricity grid. Cloud computing is an evolutionary paradigm shift following the shift from mainframe to client–server in the early 1980s. Computing “in the cloud” is essentially a new storage, consumption, and delivery model for IT services based on the world wide web, and it typically involves over-the-Internet provision of dynamically scalable resources.

The most prevalent and pervasive cloud services currently in use are social networking sites (ie: the 500 million people using Facebook), micro-blogging and blogging services such as Twitter and Blogger, video-sharing sites like YouTube, picture-sharing sites such as Flickr, document and applications sites like Google Docs and social-bookmarking sites like Delicious.

Forward thinking technophiles expect that by 2020 most people will access software applications online and share and access information through the use of remote server networks, rather than depending primarily on tools and information housed on their personal computers. They believe that “cloud computing” will become more dominant than the desktop in the next decade. In other words, most users will perform most computing and communicating activities through connections to servers operated by outside firms.

Consequently, cloud computing takes the form of web-based tools or applications that users can access and use through a web browser as if it were a program installed locally on their own computer. As storage and access of data migrates off of personal hard drives and into the cloud, conventional understanding of ownership of data becomes more than a little fuzzy. Access and control of the cloud becomes a critical concern.

Who owns the cloud?

Putting all or most of our faith in remotely accessible tools and data puts a lot of trust in the humans and devices controlling the clouds and exercising gatekeeping functions over access to that data. This line of reasoning raises concerns that cloud dominance by a small number of large firms may constrict the internet's openness and its capacity to inspire innovation. This presents serious security problems and further exposes previously private information to governments, corporations, thieves, opportunists, and human and/or machine error. Are we giving up autonomy and control in exchange for streamlined simplicity?

As this ubiquitous cloud of data becomes in essence a globally structured atmosphere of information from which humanity extracts and stores it’s knowledge base, might not a globally structured sentience be far off?

Enter our old friend… Singularity

If the Singularity represents the point in time when computers… globally connected and facilitated by the cloud… becomes smarter than humans, then that is the point when computers can understand themselves better than humans can. It will be the day AI, or more precisly… PI (planetary intelligence), is born as a sentient system. As “the cloud” continues to be accessed and augmented by humanity, the comprehensive composition of our global superintelligence is one of intelligence amplification... humanity as an intragel part of superintelligence. A partnership of Earth… Gaia, technology and humanity.

A central expectation of the singularity concept is that it’s appearance is difficult to predict and it’s threshold may be achieved quite suddenly. In this regard, cloud computing might be the most likley infrastructure of singularity. As more data and applications are “uploaded” to the cloud, intelligence amplification become exponential. It is easy to imagine cloud computing as being vastly greater than the sum-total of it’s parts.

Although a common fear among it’s proponents is that singularity will mark the end of the human era… cloud computing doesn’t have a menacing feel to it. Oddly enough, cloud computing has an organic quality to it, much like chaos theory and fractal geometry. It is as likley as any other scenario that cloud computing will explode beyond the control of afore-mentioned large firms and corporations… becoming it’s own evolutionary agent.

Who owns the cloud?... Earth, of course!

This is somehow an encouraging thought. It brings to mind the sixth principal of tek-gnostics eight-fold path, that… the circumstances are necessarily perfect and all is chaos under Heaven… and the situation is excellent!