Many layers of cloud computing, or just one?

From Nicholas Carr’s “Further musings on the network effect and the cloud” (Rough Type: 27 October 2008):

I think O’Reilly did a nice job of identifying the different layers of the cloud computing business – infrastructure, development platform, applications – and I think he’s right that they’ll have different economic and competitive characteristics. One thing we don’t know yet, though, is whether those layers will in the long run exist as separate industry sectors or whether they’ll collapse into a single supply model. In other words, will the infrastructure suppliers also come to dominate the supply of apps? Google and Microsoft are obviously trying to play across all three layers, while Amazon so far seems content to focus on the infrastructure business and Salesforce is expanding from the apps layer to the development platform layer. The degree to which the layers remain, or don’t remain, discrete business sectors will play a huge role in determining the ultimate shape, economics, and degree of consolidation in cloud computing.

Let me end on a speculative note: There’s one layer in the cloud that O’Reilly failed to mention, and that layer is actually on top of the application layer. It’s what I’ll call the device layer – encompassing all the various appliances people will use to tap the cloud – and it may ultimately come to be the most interesting layer. A hundred years ago, when Tesla, Westinghouse, Insull, and others were building the cloud of that time – the electric grid – companies viewed the effort in terms of the inputs to their business: in particular, the power they needed to run the machines that produced the goods they sold. But the real revolutionary aspect of the electric grid was not the way it changed business inputs – though that was indeed dramatic – but the way it changed business outputs. After the grid was built, we saw an avalanche of new products outfitted with electric cords, many of which were inconceivable before the grid’s arrival. The real fortunes were made by those companies that thought most creatively about the devices that consumers would plug into the grid. Today, we’re already seeing hints of the device layer – of the cloud as output rather than input. Look at the way, for instance, that the little old iPod has shaped the digital music cloud.

Who was saved in the storming of the Bastille?

From Wikipedia’s “French Revolution” (5 July 2006):

On July 14, 1789, after hours of combat, the insurgents seized the Bastille prison, killing the governor, Marquis Bernard de Launay, and several of his guards. Although the Parisians released only seven prisoners; four forgers, two lunatics, and a sexual offender, the Bastille served as a potent symbol of everything hated under the ancien régime.

iSee: online map of CCTVs in Manhattan

From Patrick Keefe’s “Camera Shy” (Legal Affairs: July/August 2003):

One extralegal solution is a project called iSee. Launched several years ago, iSee is an online interactive map of the locations of surveillance cameras in Manhattan. To use iSee, you simply open the map of Manhattan and double-click on your point of departure and your destination. After a few moments of computation, iSee generates the “path of least surveillance.”

iSee can be accessed through the website of the organization which created it, the so-called Institute of Applied Autonomy. IAA is a collective of artists, engineers, and scientists who design technologies for the “burgeoning market” of “cultural insurrection.” The organization presents itself as a tech-savvy civil libertarian answer to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a shadowy R&D wing of the Pentagon. DARPA has recently been in the news for developing the Terrorist Information Awareness project, headed by John Poindexter, which would monitor the everyday transactions of American citizens. Whereas DARPA uses what IAA calls “tools of repression” to take your autonomy away, IAA answers with another set of tools that are intended to give you your autonomy back. …

The American Revolution: led by elites, sold to the masses

From James Grimmelmann’s “On the Second Life Tax Revolt“:

The Boston Tea Party was the expression of mercantile anger at taxes: the protesters wanted was a revision of British tax policies to favor colonial merchants at the expense of merchants in England. Economically speaking, the entire American Revolution was a scheme to improve the fortunes of colonial elites. But to convince their future countrymen to go along with their tax revolt, they developed one of the most inspiring ideologies of liberty and justice the world has ever seen. ‘No taxation without representation’ is a slogan that transforms ‘mere’ economics into egalitarianism. There are plenty of thinkers who will tell you societies as a whole can often reap enormous benefits by letting one particular group get rich; these benefits are hardly confined to material wealth.

Four principles of modernity

From “Relativity, Uncertainty, Incompleteness and Undecidability“:

In this article four fundamental principles are presented: relativity, uncertainty, incompleteness and undecidability. They were studied by, respectively, Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing. …

Relativity says that there is no privileged, “objective” viewpoint for certain observations. … Now, if things move relative to each other, then obviously their positions at a given time are also measured relative to each other. …

Werner Heisenberg showed that if we built a machine to tell us with high precision were an electron is, this machine could not also tell us the speed of the electron. If we want to measure its speed without altering it we can use a different light but then we wouldn’t know where it is. At atomic scale, no instrument can tell us at the same time exactly where a particle is and exactly at what speed it is moving. …

If this system is complete, then anything that is true is provable. Similarly, anything false is provable false. Kurt Gödel got the intuition that traditional mathematical logic was not complete, and devoted several years to try to find one thing, a single thing that was inside the mathematics but outside the reach of logic. … Gödel’s incompleteness means that the classical mathematical logic deductive system, and actually any logical system consistent and expressive enough, is not complete, has “holes” full of expressions that are not logically true nor false. …

Turing’s halting problem is one of the problems that fall in to the category of undecidable problems. It says that it is not possible to write a program to decide if other program is correctly written, in the sense that it will never hang. This creates a limit to the verification of all programs, as all the attempts of building actual computers, usable in practice and different from Turing machines have been proved to be equivalent in power and limitations to the basic Turing machine.

CNN’s innovations & insights

From Joel Kurtzman, Interview with Gary Hamel, Strategy & Business (4th Qtr 1997):

One of the most interesting cases of all is CNN, which “saw at least three things that had already changed in our world that others had not yet put together”: technology changes produced small satellite uplinks that made it possible to report from virtually anywhere; lifestyle changes meant we don’t all get home in time for the six o’clock network news; and regulatory changes allowed cable operators to undermine the monopoly of regional broadcasters.

4 kinds of eductional institutions

From EDUCAUSE Review, February 2000:

There are 3,700 institutions and 15 million students in the United States today facing the challenge of integrating the past with the present, questioning how to mold the traditional model of higher education into a form that will not become obsolete in a world awash in an information explosion driven by electronic technology. There now exist four different types of educational institutions instead of the single, virtually unaltered model followed for the past 250 years of formal education in America. The first type comprises the traditional notion of a college. The second includes “corporate universities,” on-site training programs developed by individual companies to improve the skills and knowledge of employees. The third category contains mega-universities that recognize no national boundaries, combine the high-tech with the historical, and bridge the gap between the educational experience and the job market. The fourth types are virtual educators that operate nearly entirely online and offer the opportunity for practically anybody to become a teacher or a student.

Will a technology become revolutionary?

From "The Challenges Facing Nanotechnology", on Ockham’s Razor:

Let us now examine nanotechnology, and assess the hurdles it must overcome before it becomes a society-transforming revolution. In our view there are four major issues:

Feasibility: can we do what we claim we can do, or is it as fantastic as the Nanobot?

Secondly, economic value: does it change the economy in any way? Does it open new sources of wealth?

Third, safety: is it safe, or does it create new dangers we don’t yet know how to handle?

And finally, necessity: do we really need to do it? And have we a choice about it?

These are the major questions all new sciences should face, and nanotechnology is no different.