Just the other day two more messages popped into my inbox. Each of them reminded me that if I didn’t get up to speed on their latest “as a Service” offering, I’d somehow be relegated to the dustbin of Internet history.
I don’t even remember which “as a Service” these hucksters were hawking. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with what “as a Service” means (and woe to you, poor clueless clods), it is defined in Wikipedia (”Dictionary as a Service,” I would imagine) as “something made available to a customer as a service, always in the context of cloud computing.”
I’m glad they added that last bit about cloud computing, which is a way of saying computations performed somewhere other than using your fingers and toes.
But these days, even the most humble offering seems to have a “cloud computing” component. So we have “XaaS,” or “Everything as a Service” — which, I suppose, would be better than “0aaS,” or “Nothing as a Service.”
I’m waiting. They’ll get there.
And, no, “Nothing as a Service” couldn’t be “NaaS,” because that’s “Network as a Service.”
Is this just an IT thing? How deeply has the language of information technology penetrated our lives? Information Technology — two words welded together in an impossible, inevitable marriage.
Of course there’s information in the world — bird songs are information. Of course there’s technology, like a backhoe. When we’re constantly “digitizing” everything and “monetizing” the outcome, what do we think we’ll get? Tinier and tinier services, market fragmentation, more ways to connect? When it comes to everything as a service, how finely can a customer be ground before that customer disappears?
Eyeblink as a Service. Think about it. Someone in Augmented Reality no doubt already has, and no doubt has complained that the eyeblink motion is too crude.
When we digitize everything and monetize the result, have we in some cases chained that bird to that backhoe?
On it goes. As we hurl ourselves into this new world where everything is connected, where everything “talks” to everything via some kind of cloud, then it must follow that everything we do is offered “as a Service.”
And worse, if this is the way we now think — that everything we do can be offered as a service, will we forget the tie to the cloud and begin to label everything we do as an “aaS.?
Put bluntly (and however you choose to pronounce this), how many “asS”es do we want in our lives? Don’t we have enough “aaS”es already?
What if this is what our world becomes? Answer-My-Doorbell as a Service. Helping-Little-Old-Ladies-with-their-Groceries as a Service. CYA as a Service.
Breathing as a Service.
I’m old enough to remember life before we started defining all these “as a Service’s.” Before we became so bound to our extractive economy that we can only see each other as mere transactions, extractors and extractees. Before our thinking was quite so cloudy. Before clouds became digitized.
I remember watching clouds as a kid. I didn’t think of those clouds as “Nature as a Service.” I wasn’t a customer of anything. I was a kid. Oh, I suppose in those days, between episodes of Rocky and Bullwinkle on big crude streaming boxes we called television, marketers were even then pitching things over the transom to us. How else would I have ever thought up 64 Crayola Crayons as what I wanted for Christmas? I wanted to color. The crayons were just the means to do it.
(Crayons as a Service. Don’t even go there.)
I can think of all kinds of things I did as a Kid. Playing-in-the-Park as a Kid, Eating-Ice-Cream as a Kid, Doing-Homework as a Kid, Baseball as a Kid, you name it.
And what my parents did for me, well, I won’t diminish it by putting any kind of label on that. They were parents, and like so many of us, they simply did their best. Which is, after all, all we should ask of anyone. I loved and fought them, and they loved and fought me. What else is there?
I’m in that generation, or of that age, where speaking to today’s world becomes more difficult. I’m a fish swimming in a different ocean. The PH is off, and my gills are sore. The younger fish swim in faster schools but turn and dance more quickly than I ever thought possible. This new world of connected everything makes intuitive sense to them.
I worry about them, turning and dancing so quickly. And I have yet to acknowledge that all too soon they will be gently worrying about me.
And language. Just today, I saw a headline touting the most “cringeworthy” statements made by someone. I’ve never used the word “cringeworthy” except here. I’m beginning to use “clickbait,” so that must be progress. We’re inventing words as fast as we’re changing our minds, and the spin cycle of our world is, well, spinning.
Could it be that we map our words to our attention span? That as we spin faster and faster, and rely on the Internet for 140- or 280-character bursts of information (versus tedious blogs like this one) — as we spin through our Internet driven, interrupted lives, our words must also collapse? After all, even when I was growing up (well before all of this), we kids wondered (Wondering as a Kid - the best activity of all) why people in earlier centuries spoke the florid way they did. Who could sit still long enough to get to the end of one of their sentences?
Still, I must ask, what are we really doing? Tinkering at the edges of what’s cool while avoiding what really needs to be done? How serious are we with all this? As the niches into which we can drive our services get narrower and narrower, do our services get divided and subdivided, into microservices, microdeliveries, nanoservices? Does our language become ever more microscopic and transactional?
Is this progress?
When we speak or write about disruptive technologies, game-changing marketplace revolutions, how confident are we that they are coming? How do we predict a seismic shift? Further, why try? The next seismic shift (real or more likely imagined) could be a bright star, drawing our eyes up and away from the snail crawling over the sidewalk, dragging everything he has with him, moving inexorably toward where he wants to be.
The flash of the star is brief; the determination of the snail, overpowering.
Progress measured in snail tracks creates evolutionary change. Perhaps we have no patience for this, yearning instead for “the next big thing,” that big bang that will somehow make it (whatever “it” is) all better. So my rant about “as a Service” may be nothing more than an idle expression of that yearning for “something more than this,” a desire to see a way beyond what is relentlessly portrayed through social and other media as a continuing slide down slopes of ignorance. Where is the star that will save us?
Against this stands the promise of micro progress, that constant flurry of activity, people using technology in more finely ground ways. One step at a time, one snail across the sidewalk. One bird perched on a backhoe, singing away.
Can’t we just forget the bigger things? Can’t we just let the folks who need to get in and get out, find their niche and exploit it, do their thing? That will move us forward, after all. Slowly the wheels of change so often turn. All these “as a Service” offerings are just one set of cogs in those wheels.
Maybe the ravages of climate change, the 200+ incidents of school shootings these past 10 years, the arrests of people of color simply because they were people of color — maybe all these events that scream at us through social media (Clickbait as a Service, Fake News as a Service) — just maybe, all of this nastiness is a blessing. Because when we’re out there in each others’ arms in sorrow, or helping our neighbors sift through what once was their house and all they had, or marching to keep the state from defining what we can do with our own bodies — when we’re doing these things, we become what we’ve always been in our best moments: people helping people, people demonstrating the fragility and nobility of the human condition.
That’s a language we’ll always speak, and a service we’ll always instinctively do.