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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Thomas Friedman, "One Country, Two Revolutions": Cloudy Thinking

I never agree with almost anything Thomas Friedman writes, and his New York Times op-ed of today's date, "One Country, Two Revolutions" (, was another case in point.

Yes, I'm delighted that many of America's smartest university graduates will no longer be gravitating toward Wall Street investment banking houses in order to devise useless derivatives or to design new algorithms for ultra fast computerized trading.

On the other hand, I don't agree with Friedman that the "convergence of social media" and cloud computing is going to dramatically change the way we live. Friedman writes:

"The latest phase in the I.T. revolution is being driven by the convergence of social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Groupon, Zynga — with the proliferation of cheap wireless connectivity and Web-enabled smartphones and 'the cloud' — those enormous server farms that hold and constantly update thousands of software applications, which are then downloaded (as if from a cloud) by users on their smartphones, making them into incredibly powerful devices that can perform myriad tasks."

Although I work with remarkable, cutting edge, hi-tech companies, I have no need for Facebook or LinkedIn, and I do not tweet. I am satisifed with the functionality of my Blackberry and have no need to turn it into an "incredibly powerful device."

True, I'm not a scientist, and my work does not involve remotely accessing data banks, but I question how many of my clients will be willing to pass vital information to cloud storage and service, which necessarily involve security threats and risk of failure beyond my clients' control.

Moreover, although cloud computing is intended to result in ease of access from remote locations, personally I still believe in the fecundity of human interaction within close quarters, i.e. in an office or a laboratory.

Sure, there's a place for cloud computing, but I think it's being hyped. Maybe it's a function of my age, but I believe that the wellspring of innovation is no longer better access to data, but rather finding better uses for such data, which in turn is a function of creative and flexible thinking induced by intimate interplay and meshing at close quarters.

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