Computers have a been a significant part of my world since I was 14 years old. In the 1980s, my step-father had networked some 8 different UNIX workstations throughout our house under this Utopian idea that our entire lives would become dependent on them.
Mom would store all her recipes into a program. Step-father eagerly catalogued every gardening magazine into a database. I would compose homework on the word processor. Brother would play his video games on them. And each of us could remain in our own area of the house e-mailing each other.
But back then, computing was all local. Even with networks, you typically had a server in house, with workstations tied to it via wire. There was no such thing as "the cloud".
If all of our communication, data, productivity, and entertainment was stored on a single server, then what happens if we can't get to a workstation?
You're screwed. Network computing still couldn't offer much mobility.
Unfortately, in the 1980s, we didn't have the Internet. The only way to access a server remotely was via telephone, and they were landline phones back then, requiring a modem. Not very conducive to traveling.
The Utopia my step-father envisioned for our house never caught on, despite a good faith effort from each of us.
Today, my world has become increasingly transient.
I want less stuff and fewer possessions. I don't want anything that ties me down to a physical location. That's what homeownership was for me, a shackle and chain that required me to be there, mowing the lawn, cleaning the air filters, paying the bills.
You can see why I love motorcycles. It represents freedom for me. I could get the same transient lifestyle from a car, but a car is larger, more costly, and somehow feels like I have more to manage.
Now, there's cloud computing.
The locally hosted server that once hosted all of our data, facilitated our communication, ran all of our software, and provided us with entertainment, is now mirrored across hundreds of servers spanning the Earth. What's more, is that it's cross-platform, so that my cell phone, laptop, and tablet, all can access it flawlessly.
The Utopia is here now.
And just how much more freedom does that give a motorcycle rider like me, who runs his own Internet business?
A great deal.
So, why do I even bother to live in the same place for more than a month? Why do I even bother to own furniture?
I can understand that most people need to feel grounded. They need neighbors and friends they see each week. They need the familiarity and predictability of the same restaurant, the same streets, and the same weather patterns.
I just never wanted that. I didn't grow up with a close family. I didn't have close friends. We always moved around a lot, and I had to change schools often. When you grow up this way, you feel unattached. You need to keep moving.
|Wyoming, Highway 220|
If anything, and as much as I hate to admit, but Facebook is perfect. I can meet people in person, get to know them a little, and then just follow them online. I don't need to keep seeing them each week.
I guess even my friends are stored on the cloud.
If people never live in the same place for more than a month and change towns each time, what does that do a society? Do we bother to make friends knowing that we won't be around? Will we still join clubs, make commitments, or make large purchases? Will be become more diverse, or will we feel more empty?
How much of a ghost am I if I'm not grounded? If I enter into a town, stay there for a couple of weeks, and continue on, perhaps people only catch me out of the corner of their eye, and then I disappear, hitting the highway yet again, just watching the world go by, living off the cloud.