Imagine a world without the jump drives, desktop towers, and other information storage facilities of today. With the rate and speed at which technology is increasing exponentially in today’s world, what will the storage facilities of tomorrow look like? Will there be ways to tap into your most important–and personal–data without the need for the devices we normally use today?
This is a trend that seems to be occurring already. Writing for Wired Magazine this month, Steven Levy dished on his experience using the CR-48 for the last several months (and despite the name, this isn’t an inter-personal character-bot that follows you around taking notes… but expect to see one within the next five years). The CR-48 is actually a laptop computer designed around use of Google’s Chrome web browser, which Levy describes as having “minimal local storage, no discernible file system, no print drivers, and no client applications to install.” The idea here is simple: with the CR-48, we’re being taken in a direction where computers literally will become mere windows to the greater data cloud, rather than storage devices themselves. But is this truly the way of the future, or are we getting a bit ahead of ourselves with the direction our technology may be taking?
Any time I hear about these sorts of innovations and futuristic revisions of how we’ll work and interact a few years from now, I get a little disconcerted. Call me a worrier, but the truth is that if we migrate every bit of ourselves into an intangible data-cloud, we’re left with the constant threat of losing everything if (or maybe when) that cloud crashes or becomes inaccessible. If we read books like my pal William Forstchen’s One Second After, we’re treated to visions of a world sans-electricity, internet, and of course, the constant contact we’re afforded by sites like Facebook and Twitter. The idea Forstchen presents is pretty simple: an enemy nation of the U.S. decides to launch a nuclear warhead into the upper atmosphere above the country, creating a nuclear explosion in space, and thus producing a resulting electromagnetic shock-wave that decimates the electrical infrastructure countrywide. The reality of the EMP threat has been known to us for decades, and even a bit of my research into UFO sightings in areas of the south Pacific such as Johnston Island led me to nuclear tests like Starfish Prime, where the effects of an EMP blast of this sort became very apparent. Talking with Stanton Friedman about this a while back, he noted that such incidents may have even been “signals” to UFO occupants about the dangerous territory humankind had begun to enter throughout the Cold War years, thus concurring with Robert Hastings’ premise outlined in his book UFOs and Nukes.
But the threat here, aside from imagining how most would survive in a complacent world unaccustomed to life without the conveniences the electron can offer, is also a cultural one. If the greatest body of human knowledge migrates over to the web (or as I allude in the title, almost literally has an out-of-body transmigration from physical hardware over to the intangible data-cloud), what happens if we lose it? I personally love the smell of a new paperback book, and though I also advocate protecting our natural resources and recycling, the direction in which we’re heading seems to be unsteady at best.
So is it wise to begin manufacturing more and more hardware that incorporates less and less room or necessity for data storage? I wonder how long before the hardware itself will become obsolete; looking ahead, the direction we seem to be taking seems to allude less to migrating our information systems onto the web exclusively, but removing the middle-man that has become hardware altogether. In other words, maybe the future we’re actually heading toward is one where our bodies converge with the electronic ino-systems we’ve created. Ultimately, we will be the hardware, and the internet will form the basis of a forthcoming new collective electro-consciousness. If I’m right, and this truly is where we can expect to be a few decades down the road, again, we must ask what happens if we suffer some kind of catastrophic breakdown? In the absence of the web, do we lose some part of ourselves?
Maybe this is just crazy talk… or maybe I’m just fear mongering. Either way, my brain hurts, so turning things over to the collective, what are your thoughts on the matter? Is it wise to shuffle our information systems entirely over to the web, or is it even a realistic concept to assume that such a thing might ever happen?