Friday, 1 June 2012

I no longer need to remember

So I've got all this stuff in "the cloud". It's great, I don't need to worry about backing it up because some gigantic company has set up a trillion servers in vast glacier-chilled vaults to protect my electronic assets. In case of a nuclear world war my letter to British Gas will be safe and sound, as will the holiday snaps from Northumberland and the picture my friend sent me of the guy with the funny tattoos. These files are replicated hundreds of times to ensure they're not lost - and I have no doubt that future civilisations will be able to read my letter to British Gas and fully appreciate, even across the passage of centuries, how annoying that problem with my bill really was.

This, for me, is the beauty of the cloud.

Now of course I'm being slightly facetious - clearly cloud computing represents a huge leap forward in how we think about IT provisioning, and companies are increasingly considering it to reduce the financial overheads of maintaining hardware, and outsource the expertise required to properly manage scalability, security and so on.
But for the home user, what really has changed (apart from the word Cloud popping up everywhere)? There are companies offering services and storage online, same as there were ten or fifteen years ago. They're just different services, and they now offer more storage.
Take, for example, webmail. The fundamental tenets of cloud are true: it's stored and managed out there on the Internet. I need not concern myself with how or where. It will no doubt be replicated on many servers, and I neither know nor care which server is serving up my email about vi4gr4, or the eight hundred emails from Groupon I've received that day.

But now, here's an idea. While online and social media companies continue to persuade us to share our every mindless thought or opinion, keep a note of everything and everyone we encounter (by the way, Evernote team: I am emphatically NOT going to start photographing everyone I meet. That is truly ridiculous), and store images of everything we see to share with our friends, the obvious extrapolation of that trend is this: wire our brains up to the Internet to store our every experience into the cloud. An online memory of everything we do, think, see or feel. CloudMemory (TM). (It's not really a trademark by the way, I just made it up - although I think there is a kind of mattress called this).

It's not a very original idea - I'm sure it's featured in sci-fi movies, and Google are probably developing it as we speak, but consider the advantages below (there must be thousands, but these are the ones with the most profound implications for humankind):

  • Never worry about printing out your train or flight confirmation again. Having looked at it once, forever after just look it up from CloudMemory.
  • "Who is that actor? I've definitely seen him in something recently. Oh wait, I can just retrieve it from my online memory using CloudMemory (TM)!"
  • Ever wonder what you just came upstairs to get? Just look it up on your iPhone using the CloudMemory app.
  • "Hey, remember that great time we had in Majorca?" "No. I no longer need to remember that time."

There are also some lesser advantages, such as:

  • World peace could be brought about. I don't know how, but I'm pretty sure CloudMemory would help.
  • Crimes could be solved by allowing people to share certain memories with restricted people, to prove their alibi or version of events is true. It must have been difficult for Murdoch and Coulson, for instance, trying to help the Leveson inquiry but cruelly blighted by a failing memory. They could certainly have benefitted from CloudMemory.
  • 2000 years from now no one will be able to claim the existence of visiting deity without providing proof in the form of a hyperlink to an archived online memory. "A reading from the first letter of Saint Phil to the inhabitants of Milton Keynes: And so it was that Bob Holness flew down from heaven in a hexagonal spaceship, to save our mortal souls. But don't take my word for it; see footage here: ". That sort of thing.

So you see that CloudMemory could be the next big thing (well, there might be some more big things first I guess, like the iPhone 5 with a slightly thinner case, or someone else offering online movie rentals).

<hilarious ending gag>
So I'm off to file my patent for, erm, what was it again?
</hilarious ending gag>