With our heads in the cloud

When coming back after a long vacation, I smell chocolate. It’s because of the cacao factories in my hometown Zaanstad. Some others who visited the area say it stinks. But I have another connection in my head. For me it’s the sweet taste of home.

Factory Cacao de Zaan

We all have unique connections in our brain. Connections made by our own experiences. One has nice memories when he walks past his old elementary school, the other thinks about the time he was bullied. The first one remembers playing on the square with his friends. The last one sees the face of the bully and yelling children around him. A traumatic experience imprinted in his brain.

A smell, a touch, a sound. All create connections within our head with experiences of the world. Some recall a happy memory others are traumatic. Sometimes even both at the same time. When our parents die we often play their favorite music at the funeral. We think of them at their best and worst.

When one of our parent is gone, it almost feels like a dream. But the connection we have with our parents is of course not only in our heads. The connection with our parents is very real. They made and raised us. Your parents have the same connection with their grandparents.

People are connected with each other. Through DNA and social links. People are also connected with places. Like the place you grew up or the place you work. When we follow that path we soon come to the conclusion that everything in the world is connected with each other.

Connected through the internet

Some connections are very strong, while others or not. The connection with your parents is very strong, but with a far cousin in Australia is much weaker. Some memories are strong, others are faint. Sometimes we consciously need to reconnect to make the link stronger.

In my daily job I integrate systems. These systems can not smell each other or have a nice conversation to get connected. Their connection is weak. I need to write interfaces and use all kinds of tools to get them connected. When they do, there is flow of data between those systems.

In the early days of computers every system was a single unit. They were very big and filled entire rooms. But those systems, were so to say, kind of lonely. There was no connection at all. With the birth of the internet systems got connected with each other. The result of a calculation could be sent to another computer which did another calculation. And so on.

Systems do not only have an interface with each other, but also with humans. There is the command line interface where you can type commands and the graphical user interface (GUI) where there are stuff like buttons. So there is connection between humans and systems and systems with each other.

With the birth of the World Wide Web the internet got new ways to communicate and share information. The web brought for example the concept of links. These links connect one website to another. Browsing from one website to another to find information that we want.

We can Google and find an old classmate, share old stories with her and organize a reunion. The reunion itself could best take place at your old school. Talking face to face. Apologize to the bullied. Taking a selfie with the class. And share photos of your kids on your mobile.

Somewhere in the cloud

The web isn’t just a network of old classmates of course, it’s a network of networks. On the internet you can have a network of friends, colleagues or like-minded people. The internet can make weak links stronger. So the far cousin in Australia can share an image of its wife and kids at the beach. And you can like his post. With every click there is a stronger connection.

It almost feels like the internet put an invisible digital layer on top of the world and connects it in new ways.

Most of the websites run in data centers. Something which today we call the cloud. The term symbolizes that the information is somewhere, but we don’t exactly know where.

Today, this cloud is all around us. When we search, when we work, when we shop, when we socialize, when we navigate, when we cook and so on. For almost everything we do there is a connection with the internet. There is something profound going on here. Something that exceeds just the plain technologies behind it.

The internet is the driving force of all new connections.

Physical connections become weaker and digital connections become stronger. It’s like we are all literally caught on the web. That we are caught on the web and the web is all around us, happened within one generation. With a blink of an eye.

All present

Now the internet is so ubiquitous and so normal that we (as individuals and society) are almost unaware of it. We have our heads in the clouds.

This all presence of the WWW seems to be on its way for a long time. I think that the connectedness of the world through the internet is actually at it early stages.

Currently, it’s still a lot about information and communication. Technologies like internet of things (IOT), virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) will make it all-encompassing. In the future the way we smell, hear and think will be connected in completely new way.

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