Cloud computing was a bad idea a half a century ago and it is still a bad idea today. Cloud computing is the idea that our computer, a dumb terminal in essence, may be used to access data and services out there on the internet, from a “cloud” of networked computers and data centers. This idea is being touted by the Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, and has been around in various guises for some time.

But, the problem with cloud computing, as with all client server models is reliability, functionality, performance, and security (1). In addition, it may be argued that the model is in someway innately undemocratic, that is, that it is, in practice, likely to promote centralized political, social, and economic control.

Scholars and laymen alike have often argued that the internet is in someway democratic, promoting diversity of ideas and opinion – individuals expressing their beliefs and opinions in the public form (although anarchistic would perhaps be a better characterization). Yet, whereas the internet may be inherently democratic, the move towards cloud computing is a move towards centralized control.

Technology is a tool. And a tool, in and of itself, is not inherently antidemocratic. Yet, in practice, when you put the tools in the hands of human actors, a technology may promote various social or cultural features. The printing press, the cannon, the locomotive, the telegraph, and the networked computer are examples of technologies which resulted in important social developments.

In the cloud computing model, we depend upon third parties. Third parties provide services for us and we are dependent upon them to take care of “everything” for us. But, we may ask, “Who owns the data?” “Who owns the process?” “Who decides?” Not us.

By way of analogy, take your passport, your photos, your love letters, and your contact list and give it to a banker to store in a safe deposit box 2000 miles away. And, while we are at it, ask him to take care of your business transactions. I for one am uneasy with this model.

The United States is founded upon the idea that if you centralize power and control, it will almost universally lead authoritarian control. The desire for knowledge and control are almost universal, as illustrated in almost every sphere of human existence, within the home, church, school, workplace, and government. Power is used for control.

In the cloud model, we become increasingly dependent upon third parties, that is, we give them power over ourselves, whether exercised or not. Yet, as corporations attempt to understand and influence buyer behavior, and governments seek to regulate human behavior, they will monitor our actives and personal data; and they will package and market services in an attempt to influence and manipulate behavior patterns.

. . . And in time, we may find that these third parties control our data and our potential activities. All done under the veneer of enlightened despotism.

Although there may be a number reasons to be suspicious of the cloud computing model, it is important to note that cloud computing is a bad idea on technical grounds, alone. Cloud computing has a number of technical drawbacks, which are intrinsic to cloud computing and client-server models: Performance and reliability limitations are, by and large, rooted in the finite speed of light (2). The use of remote logons means that it is always possible to hack your user account. And internet connectivity and server reliability cannot be guaranteed. Just because it fits Google’s business model doesn’t make it a good idea.

In conclusion, the cloud computing model is a bad idea. It requires us to place a great deal of trust in third parties responsible for providing services and data storage. That is, the model places an unnecessary reliance upon a third party (trusting they are both competent and honest) and introduces unnecessary security risks (hackers, corporate espionage, Federal surveillance, potential loss of physical and legal control over data, ownership of processes vital to bottom line, etc.).

Dependence upon third parties, at least without checks and balances, will almost inevitably lead to a loss of self-determination, the loss of a degree of control over our data and our potential activities. In this way, cloud computing is likely to promote centralized social, economic, and political control.


The Chinese word for computer is electronic brain.
In the cloud, your electronic brain, your virtual brain, is held hostage.
The virtual you lives in a cloud.
We are no longer independent actors.

msc 7/08