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Posts by LB

Teardrop on the Fire

Some loosely connected thoughts on how content is easier to create and consume then ever before. Algorithms curate for us and cloud storage is infinite, the result is content that becomes disposable.

Sunset, Brisbane, taken by myself with the power of a supercomputer in my hand and access to a million more in the cloud.

Creating content, photos, video and text — such as this post — is easier then ever before in the history of the world. In historic dramas and documentaries I have watched; photos of family were treasured artefacts, rare and expensive as no one own their own camera. Books and the shelves that housed them were attributes of the learned and elite. Writing content that even one hundred people would read was an incredible feat. Now these things are essentially a zero cost endeavor in both the producing and consuming end, aside from one’s time.

I remember my parents were once frustrated that electronic devices started to apparently become ‘disposable’. A toaster was no longer an investment, a television no longer lasted ten years and the idea of repairing an electronic device became archaic. I remember thinking how cheap these things are, relative to the same piece of technology would have cost previously. Disposable appears to be parallel to consumable, low cost, low longevity and high turn over. All this meant to me was that things would get cheaper each time, but the purchase cycle of that time would decrease.

I remember later in high school (early 2000s) we would get together for LANs, probably the most geeky but most awesome kind of party. Everyone would bring over their computers, hefty monitors and connect them up by physical cables to play games and share content. Many of the video memes common today started their life being shared via LANs of these kind. I remember keeping a folder of funny videos and photos, as I would then be able to share them with others and have a laugh to myself if I so desired.

Consumable Content

There is no need to keep things like these on a local computer or phone, everything we would ever need is a simple search away on any device that is in front of us. Content that used to be valuable in its own right, as it represented value and not just memories or effort, now sits at a much higher bar to become valued.

Mass data generation by every organisation is leading to this data having a short term expiry even by law in some cases. This mass data is helpful in many cases such as that great ‘busy times’ feature in Google Maps search results. Dribbble , Product Hunt , and pretty much every news feed out there promote the recent, the instant over anything historic. Hacker News moderators will tag any items not from the current year to ensure that readers know they are about to view ‘old’ content. This ever decreasing time span where content is considered ‘fresh’ is only exacerbated by Google adding dates to search results and automatic feeds taking publish dates into consideration for their algorithms.

If something is not new, it is simply not relevant. This is what the current online world emphasises above all else with a faster relevance cycle than any fashion company could ever have hoped.

The Trouble with Tribbles

The issue with this ever increasing cycle of content creation is one of storage and then of curation. Our mobile devices may hold up to 128GB, the storage on our laptops (with SSDS) have actually — on average — gotten smaller. However, the advent of cloud computing means that we actually have easy access to 10, 100, 1000 GB within a price range of free or the cost of a bottle of water per month. Eventually we give up and decide that we must have our world on the cloud (or we are not given a choice) and agree that as long as it is ‘there somewhere’ we will be ok.

“access” is more convenient than ownership

The latest iOS operating system even goes as far as merging these worlds of physical data and cloud data for you. However, endless storage drives down the value of content even more, in the end our entire lives worth of photos, ideas and stories become a cache (temporary storage) that just has to be managed one way or another.

The other issue is curation, when the content flowing from others in our social media driven world is endless there has to be a way to ‘get through the feed’. Thankfully these computers in the cloud can help us there also, by being smart and managing what we read, see and have access to for us.

The Backlash

However, this cycle must end somewhere and until we have a neural lace or some other direct brain connection to the web we have to deal with information processing in our brain’s real time worldview.

So we start to see Radiohead deleting all of their social media posts before a new launch. Right to be forgotten legislation being enacted in some countries, let’s not forget Eric Schmidt’s incredible quote from way back in 2010.

Every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites.

We see this in a round about way with current online trends, Snapchat (Snap. Inc.) being the seminal example of content put online with a self destruct function. Many chat apps have the ability to start an encrypted chat that will no longer exist when closed, and when in transit is not available for anyone else to see.

The trend is that content we create becomes disposable, no intention of it being available after 24 hours, even 24 minutes will become a common thought. Real time is the current best speed we can process data and when it gets created at a rate that is larger than all humans in existence can consume (in 2012, 60 hours of video were uploaded Youtube every minute), there has to be another path for the data to flow.

So What

The Good

  • More content! More then we could ever dream will continue to be created, quality might be lax but quantity will not.
  • More expression and more creativity, generations of people will have access to all the creative tools and devices that their ancestors in aggregate.
  • Continued price decrease of quality content, streaming services are probably just the start.

The Bad

  • Attention (time) will increasingly be a premium, every second of distraction will cost and be paid for. (Interesting, Facebook consider 3second of video viewing a full ‘view’ in their counts).
  • Real truths are harder to come by, anyone can post something convincing, even blatant lies can now decide governments and garner incredible gathering.
  • Trust, beyond attention, will start to be eroded and unfortunately is the next shift in our society to take place. However, the block chain is coming our way and aims to solve that issue with a distributed method of storing and proving trust in transactions and much more.

The Ugly

  • No collective cache means potentially no lessons learned as a society.
  • No local or social cache means no regrets, no accountability.
  • A future backlash in the other direction where we are in a future like The Circle where constant public awareness of our every move is promoted and becomes normal.

Closing Thoughts

All of these opinions are created with the convenience of a cloud service that I do not host, nor do I need to account for in the future. The only risk is me wasting the time of others and reducing the trust of my friends that I know what I am talking about. I also apologise for the lack of links/references for this article — but that kind of proves my point a bit.

See above :) — I love Brisbane btw.