In 1987, farmer, essayist, and poet Wendell Berry offered up his standards for technological innovation:
- The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces.
- It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.
- It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces.
- It should use less energy than the one it replaces.
- If possible, it should use some form of solar energy, such as that of the body.
- It should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools.
- It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.
- It should come from a small, privately owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenance and repair.
- It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships.
These tenets were published in an essay, “Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer.” And, being the contrarian that I am (and both a Berry fan and a technologist), I wonder: Can we use these standards for cloud adoption? I will try.
Cheap: Going to the cloud for either storage or computer processing can be cheaper than buying a new computer. Depending on your storage needs, it can also be cheaper than buying a new drive. So, that’s one.
Scale: The scale of virtual machines is as small or as large as you need. And, when you’re done using it, you can terminate it and not have to worry about recycling the box it’s in.
Work quality: Depending on your current hardware setup, a cloud-based solution can (not necessarily will be) better and faster than your current machine.
Energy: If your storage is on an external drive, then cloud loses this one. But if your computational needs are intensive but not often, a virtual machine wins this one.
Solar powered: We’re tied here. Come on solar-powered machines.
Ease of Repair: If you’re a hardware person, having your own storage or computational solution at hand wins out here. If you’re not a hardware guru, it’s actually pretty good to have a cloud solution because you can get help with any problems. This help can be either the cloud provider or your fellow users.
Local provider: Okay, this one is a draw. I think Mr. Berry (who would probably be appalled by this post anyway) would be laughing at me.
Local maintenance: Small computer shops are going away but, while they’re around, the cloud solution loses this one.
Lack of disruption: Technology is usually about disruption. Computers disrupted paper. Cloud disrupts private technology. Berry probably wouldn’t see any difference. We’ll call this one a draw.
Looks like the cloud wins. I’m going to write to Mr. Berry and let him know.