Our Connected World

(This post has very coincidentally been posted the same weekend as Sense8 premiering on Netflix.)

There is no shortage of commentary about how the Internet and technology has provided us connectivity to other people and how It is reshaping our world, allowing us to communicate with others whom we may have never met otherwise. While this has generally been a great advancement for humankind in spite of the rise of the Internet troll, I’ve been pondering about how our online and offline interactions and activities have great reach, both seen and unseen.

No matter how many times we say “it’s my life” or “why does what I do matter to anyone else?”, it still have immense value and absolutely matters! Regardless of who you are, everything you do influences someone or something else, often in ways we don’t recognize in and positive and negative ways.

Consider the following scenarios that are obvious and perhaps more subtly influential:

  • That day when you don’t apply yourself at work like you should could mean missing out on a new opportunity for a client or inspiring colleagues to do better.
  • Choosing to not pickup the phone and call your old friend to catch up means the difference between strengthening old bonds and letting them weaken just a little bit more.
  • Every book and article you read continually shapes your opinions and perspectives. It forms the basis for our knowledge, but we also must be careful not to fill it only with perspectives we agree with unless your goal is to have a narrow view of the world.
  • My choosing to run more inspired a friend to pick it up again and sign up for a race this past spring, along with others trying to improve their speed and stamina. All this was spurred on by a friend who a year and a half ago somehow convinced me over Indian food that I could train for and run a marathon.
  • Your decisions on who to date or marry (or later decide to divorce from) are some of the most obvious influencing acts we have on ourselves but also our circles. Bringing a new person in changes the relational dynamic. Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate to have friends who have found great spouses that I gladly also call friends. Their presence has frequently enhanced the existing friendship.On the flip side, I’ve seen and experienced the struggles when relationships fall apart or take a destructive route. The emotional turmoil of a divorce on children and relatives is not easily quantifiable in the short and long term. Or seeing the emotional & psychological aftermath of being in an abusive and hurtful relationship play out in how we interact with others for months and years to come.

I’m not saying anything earth shattering or revolutionary, but I’ve been struck by the ever connectedness of my own life as I continue to find parallels between “my worlds”. There’s lessons I need to apply across the board for the bettering of myself and everyone else around me. (Example: apply a better training schedule & routine to reading and writing/blogging similar to the discipline I use to train for a race.) Similarly, there’s probably something happening right around you that you should be paying attention to. What is that thing for you?

P.S. If you have Netflix, check out Sense8. As of this writing, I’m 3 episodes in and am really enjoying it.


When the Clouds Break

yay cloud Oh the almighty “Cloud”. How we love you and your convenient ways! You are there for us everywhere we go ready to serve us whatever we want, from social media updates to funny YouTube clips, filtered Instagram photos, and even useful stuff like email. You know what the best part about you is, Cloud? You offer so much of it for free. That makes us happy!

Yet you anger us so when you decide to take away things we loved so dearly, like Google Reader, perhaps the most well known and best RSS reader. What made it worse is you didn’t ask us first if we were done using it. How dare you. I deserve free stuff for as long as I deem it something worthwhile to me.

We’ve come to expect that whatever we currently use in the cloud will be there forever whenever we need it. The responsibility shift in computing and data storage is gradually moving from self to others. We don’t want to maintain or manage anything. Let someone else do the dirty work and figure out how to not lose my music, photos, documents, and email. Why should I have to keep track of all that? I’m clearly too important and busy to figure it out.

This trending mentality sheds light on a couple things. 1) We don’t like to take responsibility for much as people and prefer someone else be in charge of keeping those servers that hold bytes that define much of who we think we are. 2) We demand a lot on stuff that we don’t pay for.

In light of recent severe weather in the Chicago area, I was reminded that I need to create & maintain a better backup solution for my personal files. Thankfully I didn’t lose any data (or other valuable items) in my minor basement flooding. However, this has reignited my search for a solution including looking into external drives I store in the house along with cloud based options. And at the same time, I need to have a backup solution in place for all that important that’s only stored online.

As I figure out my plans for saving everything in triplicate, I’ll share those details here.


Cloud Roots

I’ve had something stuck in my head for a little while now that I’ve had a difficult time finding words to properly explain. Even this blog post’s title went through a number of revisions before landing where it did. All of this circles around expectations and shifts in perception.

It is no secret we are in a significant shift culturally where users demand mobility and access everywhere. We want everything to be compatible with our smartphones or tablets because we’re all on the go. I personally benefit greatly from the technology available to me and I do feel like I can do more from wherever I’m at, whether that means phone calls, text messages, accessing Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, or any other number of “cloud” based services. But all this wireless access and freedom requires things few of us think about:

Wires. Lots of fiber and T-1 lines. Cell towers. Huge data centers. 

What do they all have in common? You guessed it, these things not very mobile. Yet they exist because we demand to be. Our very ability to be free to do what we want where we want is grounded, quite literally, in hardware that is a bit more of a permanent structure. Cell towers loom over our urban landscape so our phones can send and receive our critical tweets and Facebook status updates. Data centers house (probably way too much of) our personal info, with servers running around the clock just waiting for us to make them show us pictures of our friends or cats, or perhaps even something important like work email.

Without all this, we’re unable to have that freedom we so badly desire.

Part of what I’ve always found ironic about people is that we all need stability in our lives. Whether that manifests itself in faith, a community of friends, family, following a daily routine, or a long term job, it’s nearly impossible to exist for long periods of time without it. I don’t think our psyche can’t handle that much change without a pillar to go back to. We all crave a constant in some form.

As we continue to become a more mobile society that has a difficult time settling down, perhaps more so in the realms of ideals and what we choose to define us, it’s important to recognize there is a much bigger hidden cost being our mobility and freedom. One, that from a technology perspective, we all rely on an incredibly huge backend infrastructure that, like a fence around a backyard, allows us to play to our heart’s content. And two, our own personal freedoms and exploration come out of the strength based on a strong base of support and consistency in our lives.





Technology & Life: The More Things Change…

Back in November 2012, I read a book by Neal Stephenson called “In the Beginning… was the Command Line.” He begins by chronicling parts of his own history with computing devices starting back in the 1970’s and his own journey through the life of being a geek/tech savvy user. What has always struck me about technology, and culture as a whole, is that everything we know and do is built upon the blocks of something that was there before us. Computing devices use analogies and ideas from telegraph technology, which was imitated by early mainframes and teletype devices to extending this concept to a “video” teletype, what we know as a monitor. Stephenson hits on this here and there throughout the book.

The same is true for many industries, innovations, products, and ideas that would never exist were it not for the work of someone before us.