We worry about the continued availability or even desirability of oil. And those icebergs seem to be melting a bit too fast, while the rainforests are dwindling at a discomforting pace as well. However, as we wrack our brains for solutions to these critical problems, there is one resource that we are unlikely to run out of. Compared to the ones we use up, this is one we make more and more of every day. We now have more information than we know what to do with. The cloud has added even more – possibly an order of magnitude more. The problem is that information like crude oil, sugar beets and bauxite is a raw material. On its own and without further processing, it’s not much use.
Information Needs Application
Information pulls together lumps of data, such as figures or facts, and establishes a relationship between them, but doesn’t tell us what we can do with it. We need to find ways to transform it into insights, and to apply it to reach conclusions and better understand our choices. Some cloud applications help with this process. Software as a Service now offers more choice to users than they ever had with PC or on-premises based applications. They help to refine information and re-organize it. But it still takes your brain to see what it all really means.
The Knowledge Retention Barrier
Here’s the problem. Once you’ve generated insights from information, how do you store them? After you’ve built your personal model of how things work, ideally you’d like to retain it or recover it easily. If you don’t use it for a while, you might forget it and end up having to rebuild it all again. Ideally, you want to be able to store your knowledge – that added value you created by processing information and turning it into understanding. Your brain shoves knowledge you don’t use frequently into some cranial cupboard, crosses its fingers, and hopes you remember later where the cupboard is.
The Cloud Can’t Store Knowledge
The cloud is brilliant at storing information. It will stash it away for you, replicate it to protect it and let you keep umpteen different versions. But it has no mechanism for storing your insights, your perspicacity or your sapience. This situation seems unlikely to change in near future either. A fundamental limitation of the cloud, like the Internet and like computing technology before it, is that it is structured to store files and documents. This is great for storing collections of information. However it’s a poor system for storing knowledge because it doesn’t reflect the way your brain works.
KaaS, but When?
There is no practical limit to how much information we can generate (think Internet of Things and Big Data) or how much we can store. Cloud software automation can produce as many reports as we want. New cloud applications are increasingly intelligent. But they don’t think the way you – personally – think. Their knowledge, if it exists, is not your knowledge, and knowledge is a very personal thing. One day, Knowledge as a Service may become available. It will probably use another paradigm than the files and documents paradigm that is so prevalent today. It will need to mimic the way human beings think in terms of concepts and associations, instead of separate, partitioned documents. Calling all cloud service providers… What can you offer?