Google, Multiple Operating Systems, and the Mad Scramble

December 19, 2010

I thought politicians changed their tune. Navigate to “The Cloud OS” and you will see that even wizards and former Math Club members can crawfish with the best of the Washington DC big wheels. Xooglers have, in my opinion, a schizophrenic knife edge. On one hand, Google gave them the moxie to be world beaters. On the other hand, Xooglers are no longer part of the Google.

The point of “The Cloud OS” is, well, it’s okay for Google to be Google. I don’t have any problem with a multi billion dollar company doing what it thinks furthers the shareholders’ interests. I am ambivalent about Google’s multiple operating system approach. I think most users don’t know an operating system from a solid state drive. Computing is on a trajectory to work like toasters. I don’t have a strong opinion about that shift either.

Here’s a passage from the write up that caught my attention:

One way of understanding this new architecture is to view the entire Internet as a single computer. This computer is a massively distributed system with billions of processors, billions of displays, exabytes of storage, and it’s spread across the entire planet. Your phone or laptop is just one part of this global computer, and its primarily purpose is to provide a convenient interface. The actual computation and data storage is distributed in surprisingly complex and dynamic ways, but that complexity is mostly hidden from the end user.

The big question is, “Who decides what does a function and when?” The answer, in my opinion, is the Math Club, Xooglers, and others of that ilk. The operating system is indeed irrelevant to the user. What matters is the control of the information utility.

Forget Google. Forget Gmail. Forget whatever hook one uses to think about a giant company controlling information plumbing. The physics of information work like the good old physics taught in  grad school. In systems, strange attractors grab old and structures emerge. The idea for online information is to “own” one of those emergent structures. Other, smaller structures exist, but the physics of information becomes interesting when one of these big, emergent systems snags “energy”. In information one can measure energy in money, clicks, volume of data, or some other situational metric. The idea, however, is that once a big emergent structure becomes manifest, that structure calls the shots.

So the chatter about operating systems is useful but it is like talking about a behavior at a boundary condition. The main event is the emergent system which may contain substructures. Although interesting, the substructures are subordinate to the main idea: control.

What’s this mean to Facebook, Google, and similar companies? A two class world. The builders and the users. Medieval, Dark Ages, paternal? These terms are indeed suggestive. The focus is the system, not the players. The information of physics suggests constant change and when new structures emerge a bit of desperation becomes discernable. Today’s dominant system may be tomorrow’s LTV or Enron because permanence is tough when bytes collide. The mad scramble is a nibble of revisionism, but instructive nevertheless. Just my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, December 19, 2010

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