Is it just me, or did we as a people forget the lessons learned about empowering computers in films like The Matrix, The Terminator and 2001: A Space Odyssey? (I haven’t seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, so if HAL 9000 doesn’t get his smarts from stupid humans enabling him, disregard. I respect Kubrick movies in concept but have only seen Full Metal Jacket – true story.) “Cloud computing” has been all the rage lately (except occasionally right after an EQIX or FFIV earnings miss); cloud computing is apparently a euphemism for “letting some magical server farms in the sky keep track of your software/data/private home videos.” So instead of having to have your iPod with you, one could theoretically just log into his amazon/google/whatever account and have access to all his files. Instead of logging into a VPN, salespeople can access their software via the “cloud,” because most salespeople are busy working in the “field” and not padding their expense accounts with unnecessary (but delicious) Marie Calendar cheesecakes. (Editor’s Note: I cannot be certain this last sentence is factually correct, except that bit about salespeople not padding their expense accounts – that is definitely incorrect.) Isn’t overly empowering our machines (that somehow are pissed off at their treatment even before they become sentient), exactly how the evil computer networks get their start in basically every sci fi movie?
I’m actually pretty concerned that it’s too late to reverse this technological trend. Have you walked down a fucking city street lately? As I’ve noted before, the majority of the people in NYC are not capable of walking down the street without levying a social tax on those of us who aren’t complete fucking assholes. These days it’s almost impossible to make it more than 1/13th of a block without running into some dickhead (or dickheadess, women are just as bad or worse) who is glued to his phone and can’t be bothered to occasionally look in the direction where he/she is headed. I think the Unabomber had at least one thing right in his manifesto – technology is not for everyone. (Full disclosure: I stole that line from an episode of NewsRadio, but mostly so I could say I stole something from Joe Rogan. Seems like a good conversation piece.) The other day I almost had to tackle a lady who was walking directly in the path of a taxi going through a pretty routine green light. She was gracious enough to give me a disgusted look, insisting that “she had it.” I should probably have just let her die while reading Aunt Fran’s updated status – I’m sure there was something crucial going on. (Honestly, I probably wasn’t as concerned about her getting obliterated as I was about having to deal with the graphic imagery for the rest of my life. I once saw a traffic-law-abiding dude on a motorcycle get creamed by a car whose driver had fallen asleep – mangled limbs and Reservoir Dogs-levels of blood are not exactly my thing.) Making things worse, there are tons of blind people in my neighborhood who bravely – and routinely – navigate the grates, holes and dogshit of Chelsea and would certainly treasure even five minutes of eyesight per day for their torturous commutes.
The irony of the eyesight situation is probably lost on the self-absorbed assholes of the world. This cloud computing shit isn’t gonna make things better either, seems likely to just make the need for instant gratification even instanter. I think the ability to have everything you need at your fingertips is basically making life worse – no one appreciates anything. I remember back in my day, the magazine rack at Skaggs Alpha Beta was a pretty sweet source of information, but it took a little bit of effort to get there, and after about five hours you had read all the Soccer Digests, Sporting Newses, Electronic Gameses and NFL previews they had onhand. Then you would have to circle back in a couple weeks to see what new shit they had. (Editor’s Note: Soccer was pretty big when I was growing up. Billy Caskey, Tulsa Roughnecks represent! Although, fuck you for winning the Soccer Bowl the year after I moved to the ‘sas.)
Even after ESPN was born, you still had to catch a late Sportscenter back in the day to keep up completely up to the minute. I remember back in the fall of 1988 – after I’d failed out of college and was back working at Taco Bell – I worked a long closing shift when the 49ers played the “Cardiac” Cardinals and nobody knew who won and I’d missed all the late Sportcenters. I did what any self-respecting 19-year-old with no money and no prospects would do – I went to Waffle House and waited for the newspaper guy to fill the racks at the gas station next door at around 4:45 AM. Fucking Neil Lomax. (Cardinals won 24-23 after trailing 23-0; who cares though, Niners won the fucking Super Bowl that year.) Nowadays only losers hang around gas stations waiting for sports scores.
Despite my skepticism about the likelihood of eventual machine domination, I have had a long relationship with one of the more prominent cloud server companies, which even has a somewhat sinister name: F5 Networks. What the fuck are the five Fs? Faceless Farms Fucking Folks Forever? Futuristic Factories Frightening Fainthearted Fatasses? Who knows? The company won’t even reveal what it stands for. Even more sinister, FFIV has been prominently involved in blowing up my trading accounts on two separate occasions, the dotcom meltdown of spring 2000 and again in early 2002 as I squandered much of my investment banking summer bonus (you meant well, though, TARP I!). Never much for learning from my mistakes, I’m again long FFIV in a couple accounts with less disastrous (though still horrendous) results. (Our investment fund is off to a bit of a rocky start – thanks fucking Google, for having earnings the day before options expiration. Yet another example of how the cloud will ultimately fuck you.) But fuck it, I’m long and strong FFIV since we all know the robots will win eventually; I’m gonna accelerate the process by taping my phone to my right eye – it will serve as a (quasi-) 4G eyepatch and also obscure the most persistent fucking under-your-eye rash in the world.
(You see that Like This button? Go ahead and Like This while crossing the street without looking, for irony’s sake. Cool. I don’t really know what it does, but someone said for every Like you get paid $2 by AT&T – not sure if that’s true.)