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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Molecules, Clouds, and the Dark Ages

The future of technology and the world of computing enshrouds itself as a dazzling mystery. The entire idea of social networking is almost impossible to predict, let alone the entire fate of the computing age. However, I was inspired by three separate blog posts to postulate of the future of technology, and this future, my friends, is molecules, clouds, and the dark ages.

The first refers to a metaphor implemented by Robert Scoble in one of his posts. He describes the current age of technology as the atomic age. Though one could say this refers to the ever shrinking nanotechnology that will soon launch quantum computers into the spotlight, Scoble implies something completely different. He argues that the Internet is composed mostly of atoms, i.e. individual posts that cannot be separated and require a lot of energy to combine it with another atom. Twitter is the most basic example of this, where each tweet represents an atom. Emails are atoms, photos are atoms, everything in today's age is an atom. However, what does this mean for the future of technology: molecules. Scoble proposes the next age of technology will be the molecular age. If you were told to go right now and connect twenty different photos for a photo album, and three were on Flickr, five on Facebook, four on TwitPic, and eight on Google Web Albums, chances are you'd spend many hours putting this album together, especially if you are not tech-savvy. The molecular age, Scoble describes, is when connecting atoms together is an easy task, making information sharing exponentially easier and more efficient.

Clouds are the most predictable futuristic paradigms of technology. Eliot Van Buskirk writes on Wired that Google could possibly be looking into putting music in the cloud. For those unfamiliar with the term, cloud computing is having one copy of information on an Internet server, and being able to easily access and share that information while keeping it on that one computer, rather than having many copies distributed across many computers with many different software and hardware architectures. It can be seen that the personal computer is more of a client to the cloud rather than a stand-alone computer, which is the idea that sparked Google's Chrome OS, which is almost entirely Internet based. Google might be looking to challenge iTunes by putting your music in the cloud, which means easily accessing music from any computer, your mobile device, anywhere, just by logging on. Cloud computing is almost definitely the future of technology, because cloud computing is the most applicable medium should the molecular age come about.

But what about the dark ages? Exciting ideas like the molecular age and cloud computing make geeks across the globe giddy with just the sound of the idea, so why would dark ages be accompanied with these joyful concepts? Well, Kurt D. Bollacker posts in American Scientist what will happen with digital information over the years. He speaks about the digital version of data degradation and standards deprecation. In other words, information will be lost over time, and the programs used to read that information will also be lost. With either of these two losses occurring, generations to come will no longer have possibly vital information from the 21st century. It is almost like trying to decode fossils accidentally run over by a bulldozer. Though it is an idea that makes the common blogger shudder, the title of the post is "Avoiding a Digital Dark Age". With this post, I was inspired to believe the future of technology will include open standards so that data is always comprehensible. And with the FSF begging Google to release the recent VP8 video codec they bought, this part of the future of technology may be well under way.

Standardized methods of connecting information, cloud computing, and data comprehensibility standards are, or at least should be, the future of technology. Without these vital indicators of progress, Digital America itself is at risk, as more and more information is pulled into a finite space. Eventually all that pressure is going to explode. Well, hopefully the big companies out there, Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc. however evil any of them may be, will recognize these concepts as the future of technology. Progress is already under way, we must only wait to see what the outcome will be. And I can only hope that Scoble can see my pressure and balloon exploding as the physics complement to his chemistry.

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