Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Internet Software

The World Wide Computer, Monopolies and Control 129

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-cant-do-that-dave dept.
Ian Lamont writes "Nick Carr has generated a lot of discussion following his recent comments about the IT department fading away, but there are several other points he is trying to make about the rise of utility computing. He believes that the Web has evolved into a massive, programmable computer (the "World Wide Computer") that essentially lets any person or organization customize it to meet their needs. This relates to another trend he sees — a shift toward centralization. Carr draws interesting parallels to the rise of electricity suppliers during the Industrial Revolution. He says in a book excerpt printed on his blog that while decentralized technologies — the PC, Internet, etc. — can empower individuals, institutions have proven to be quite skilled at reestablishing control. 'Even though the Internet still has no center, technically speaking, control can now be wielded, through software code, from anywhere. What's different, in comparison to the physical world, is that acts of control become harder to detect and those wielding control more difficult to discern.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The World Wide Computer, Monopolies and Control

Comments Filter:
  • by primadd (1215814) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @08:27PM (#22088504) Homepage
    I'm fearing for the days when all you have at home is a thin client to some virtual machine inside some big server farm. You buy CPU time, like in the old mainframe times, get billed by cycle.

    No need for anti piracy features, you don't get to see the executables or source anyways, all tucked away from your prying eyes.

    --
    Bookmark me [primadd.net]
  • by primadd (1215814) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @08:49PM (#22088670) Homepage
    The question is, how much will those Pcs cost? Will you be able to buy them?
  • by NetSettler (460623) <kent-slashdot@nhplace.com> on Thursday January 17, 2008 @09:01PM (#22088766) Homepage Journal

    Internet still has no center, technically speaking, control can now be wielded, through software code, from anywhere. What's different, in comparison to the physical world, is that acts of control become harder to detect and those wielding control more difficult to discern.

    Or from nowhere. The risk of a bad guy taking over is serious, but the risk that no one is at the helm is much more likely to lead us to death by Global Warming, for example.

    You have to look no further than the US Congress to see a worked example. If you idealize every single member of Congress as intelligent, and I think a similar analogy can be made for people on the net or for companies on the net (where you still have to question intelligence sometimes, but let's not and say we did), it's pretty clear that the problem isn't just the sinister taking hold of someone with total power. It's also that it's easy to cause behavior that no one can take responsibility for, and that isn't in the best interest of individuals. The Internet is no different, but not because we didn't have examples of this before. Just because we didn't heed them.

  • Ahem.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GaryOlson (737642) <slashdot AT garyolson DOT org> on Thursday January 17, 2008 @09:02PM (#22088778) Journal
    "The tighter your grip, the more star systems will slip thru your fingers." Princess Leia of Alderaan

    This guy obviously has no sense of history....real or fictional.

  • The IT cycle? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jase001 (1171037) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @09:07PM (#22088808)
    Isn't this just the IT cycle, everything gets centralized, short term costs are saved. 10 years later decentralized, and long term costs are saved Vs short term.
  • by webmaster404 (1148909) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @09:10PM (#22088832)
    I highly doubt that Windows will ever be remote boot only. In the US, there are still many many places where dial-up is the only form of Internet, needless to say, these people generally spend very little time online (unless they want to download something then they are on for a very long time) and wouldn't buy an OS that was totally online. Actually, most Linux/BSD distros are more or less internet dependent compared to Windows. In FreeBSD I can install almost the entire system via FTP and in Linux most applications come from a centralized repository, while most Windows applications that are proprietary and cost money usually come on CDs, DVDs or if they are really old, floppies. While BSD/Linux will still support hard drives, more effort is being made to store data over P2P networks such as BitTorrent (I forget the name, but some photo-backup software operates via Torrents to store pictures after they have been encrypted) then Windows. Windows and the computer "industry" have always made money on hardware primarily. Software is nearly pure profit but can easily be downloaded for free over P2P networks, CDs can be copied and it is easy to clone in open-source form most software. The personal hard drive will be diminished slowly but I don't think that it will be for a total lack of freedom as long as Google is allied on the standards following, mostly-open-source side, as Google will be one of the first to have "virtual hard drives" on the web. I doubt that any of this will happen in the next 5-10 years and even later than that so I doubt that Windows will still be dominant or even around then, and that leaves Google as the next "evil empire" and with their slogan as "don't be evil" I don't think that they will turn evil anytime soon.
  • by dbIII (701233) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @09:12PM (#22088838)

    would be maintained by professionals, assuring they will be virus free

    Oddly enough that currently defines the difference between the professional level operating systems (some of which are free) and a hobby system that was pushed into the workplace (which you have to pay for). The wide range of malware is currently a single platform problem and is almost all the fault of poor design of two applications - Internet Explorer and Outlook.

  • by Gideon Fubar (833343) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @09:35PM (#22089010) Journal
    Both Nick Carr and Alexander Galloway seem to be missing something..

    perhaps it's that they assume the user and authority groups are mutually exclusive.. or perhaps it's the 'programming as control' inference that collapses the argument.. i'm not sure, but i really don't see this outcome occurring.
  • by Dun Malg (230075) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @09:39PM (#22089036) Homepage

    Carr draws interesting parallels to the rise of electricity suppliers during the Industrial Revolution.
    Interesting comparisons? More like spurious comparisons. I read the linked interview and, as someone who has read quite a bit about the rise of industry and its relationship to the availability of power (basically, the history of power generation), I can say he's a typical unrealistic abstractionist. He handwaves away the fact that the purpose and nature of electric power generation and electronic communication are similar solely in topography by claiming that they are both "general purpose technology" and are analogous economically. Of course, his entire line of reasoning is balanced upon a precarious point of assumption which is highly questionable: that people will find off-site centralization easier than in-house. Really, it's the same old crap we've heard for years. How long had we been hearing about how "real soon now" thin clients will be all people will need? It's ludicrous. Just think about how much lower latency and greater reliability would be required before people would be willing to offload any significant percentage of their storage and computational needs. We're not there yet. We're not anywhere near there. I'd say you'd be lucky to get 2 nines of reliability out of such a system, much less the 4 or 5 nines you'd need to make it what this nutter predicts. Really, the parallel between remote IT service and electric power is nil. All power requires for reliability is a good run of copper wire and generator.
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @10:10PM (#22089264) Homepage
    There's some technologies that everyone wants, and there's a solution that'll fit 90% of the populace.

    Examples would be hosted email, contact management, and calendaring. A central provider can just simply do a better job at providing all these things that an IT department does, and the requirements are all extremely generic. Users seem to want infinite amounts of email storage, and the ability to find an email at a moments notice. That's difficult to manage unless you want to dedicate someone to JUST knowing the email systems.

    The thing I disagree with is that the IT department is going away. Simply not true. The difference with other utilities is that the IT department doesn't provide a single, simple resource like electricity. IT provides automation and tools that increase productivity, many of which are going to be way to specialized to centralize.

    IT departments may evolve, like they've been evolving for the last 50 years. I've heard many years ago (before my time at least) there were people dedicated just to swap tapes around. We don't have that anymore of course.
  • Privacy Laws (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Roger W Moore (538166) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @10:31PM (#22089406) Journal
    As cool as Google Apps may be, you're essentially trusting your data integrity and security to an outside company.

    Just to drive home your point further what can be even more important is that, as trustworthy as Google may be, they are subject to US law. This is a huge problem in places like Canada which have privacy laws since using, for example, GMail means that your organization can end up breaking Canadian law because the US government has free access to any data in your email which you may be legally responsible for protecting.
  • Kinda. Sorta. Not yet, but soon.

    For businesses, especially small ones, utility computing makes a lot of sense. I work for a 70-person company, and six of our employees (including me) are dedicated to the IT function. We could probably reduce that number in half and still get more revenue-generating projects tackled if we were able to outsource things like backup and recovery, user account maintenance (why isn't this an HR function has always befuddled me - they control the hire/fire function, but don't determine system access at most companies, including mine), software rollouts, machine cloning, etc. I've been evaluating Google apps, and I tell you, it's almost to the point where I can see myself making the business case to deploy it company wide. I close my eyes, imagine a world where i never have to think about email servers and spam blocking again, and I cry a little. Saving my company $150K+/year in the process is just a bonus.
  • by kwerle (39371) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Friday January 18, 2008 @12:04AM (#22089942) Homepage Journal
    I'm fearing for the days when all you have at home is a thin client to some virtual machine inside some big server farm. You buy CPU time, like in the old mainframe times, get billed by cycle.

    Look around. There are no thin clients. The iphone is 100x more powerful than my first computer. The macbook air is 1000x more powerful than my first computer.

    Imagine 21 years from now. Imagine computers 128x more powerful than they are today. That means that the iphone of 21 years from now will be 10x more powerful than "the lightest laptop available today."

    You're talking about "thin clients". But a really powerful computer will be the size of a thick piece of paper.

    Yeah, I'm dreaming - but how else do you expect to keep up!? In my professional career (say 18 years), computers have become 100x more powerful, and fit in an envelope.

    The only reason for "thin clients" is because the client wants and agrees to be thin.
  • by TheThiefMaster (992038) on Friday January 18, 2008 @04:22AM (#22090866)
    That was true in the past, but nowadays malware is mostly spread by the good old "User wants free porn" method.

    A.k.a social engineering.

    I don't remember encountering any malware since at least before 2000 that could spread itself without relying on the user to infect their own machine. I've had several pieces of malware try to email or even msn file transfer themself to me from an infected pc though.
  • by dodobh (65811) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:12AM (#22092402) Homepage
    The browser is the software version of the thin client.

When you make your mark in the world, watch out for guys with erasers. -- The Wall Street Journal

Working...