Saturday, May 14, 2011

Google ate my homework

Google has just come out with its Chromebook, an inexpensive lightweight laptop which runs on Google’s Chrome operating system. This operating system connects the user to the Google cloud on the Internet where every user will have access to countless applications and more than ample room to save data. Moreover, this data can be accessed from any computer running Chrome and will be protected by layers of security. The system will be continually updated without the user needing to do a thing. The standalone computer will become a thing of the past and Windows… well, Windows will be nothing more than an unpleasant memory. This, of course, requires that you be constantly connected to the Internet.

I don’t know whether it was simply a coincidence, but shortly after Google announced its Chromebook this week, its Blogger platform went haywire. The first sign was a notice on Blogger informing users that it was in a read-only state. Then all blogs posted in the previous 24 hours disappeared. Over the next 24 hours, notices were continually posted claiming that the problem would be solved “shortly”. And all you could do was go and make yourself another cup of coffee and come back and stare at the screen. This wasn’t as critical an issue for me as it may have been for others. Although it did temporarily disrupt my earnest attempt to redefine my Canadian roots and create a platform through which the next great Canadian novel will be published. But it did make me think back to Google’s announcement of its Chromebook, which it hopes to sell both to private consumers and companies, and wonder what would have happened if a company had lost access to its whole computer infrastructure for such an extended period of time?

We live in a digital world where we depend more and more on our digital access to information in order to function. Soon we won’t be able to even read a newspaper or new book if we can’t connect to the “cloud”. On the one hand, we appear to have become slaves to the systems we have created. Do you remember Hal in the 2001 Space Odyssey? But on the other hand, we have access to more information and knowledge than ever before. And all this can be accessed through something as small and portable as a smart phone. Knowledge is power, so we could just as well claim that the systems that we have created have empowered us.

Which do you think is true? Have we become slaves to our own inventions, or have we discovered a newly found empowerment and independence? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

And - for the teachers among us - do you remember that classic excuse which has passed down through generations: “The dog ate my homework.”
What if a student came up to you now and said: “Google ate my homework.” Is this really that far-fetched?


  1. David, I still haven't seen the Chromebook, but it sounds very interesting. Will it be available to retired English teachers as a perk from the ministry or one of the unions? It sounds like something worth trying.

    I'm not sure whether we've become slaves to digital technology or not, but having MS and being limited in my mobility and independence AND being another resident of the wide expances of the Negev, it has made my connection to the world in general and the MS world in particular possible, lively, relevant, up-to-date and, I admit, necessary to me mental and physical well being.

    Yes, I believe that one day some pupil might use the Google excuse for not having his/her hw ready ;-) .

  2. Nice post about the Chrome OS laptop. I am very wary about not having a copy of my data at home, even when it can be blown to bits by the Hizbollah. (On the other hand, I do use Carbonite for online back-up.)

  3. I got dragged in feet kicking into the cyberworld. I have two main issues with it.....1) the body/brain cannot fully rest when there's too much electricity around it 2) can we cope if someone pulls the plug...

  4. Just heard on the news about the massive internet security breach via cloud computing that has just been discovered in the States. David you could write another post on the darker side of this topic - to quote the Rolling Stones "Hey you get offa MY cloud".....