Thursday, April 21, 2011

Addressing the Cloud

When son Dan visited us on the island a few weeks ago, he gave me a demo of the voice recognition capabilities of his Android phone. He would say, "Call home," and the phone dialed the number. He'd say "Science Musings," and this blog appeared on the screen. Virtually any request he voiced was instantly answered.

And this on a little island in the central Bahamas.

I expressed amazement that such sophisticated and apparently flawless voice-recognition software -- which must be massively coded -- could be contained in such a tiny, handheld device.

But, of course, it wasn't.

The software was in the cloud.

Dan spoke. His voice flew across thousands of miles to be analyzed by voice-recognition software in some colossal Google server in California. Software that has been trained to discern the subtleties of speech by listening to countless spoken communications, perhaps some of yours. The responses whizzed back. Instantly.

This stuff may be old hat to you, but to me it was a revelation.

Mobile phones are ubiquitous, even in the poorest countries. They will surely become more so. It is an easy extrapolation to imagine the entire planet with wireless capability, available at modest or no cost.

We whisper a request. The Cloud answers, almost invariably granting our wish. The genie in the bottle, but with more wishes than three. The closest yet to that thing most universally desired -- an omnipresent, omniscient being who hears and answers prayers.