Why do we send files to space just to move them two feet?

With all the computing power available, it should be trivial to empower individuals with full (or at least much increased) ownership of their increasingly digital lives. For example, reliance on cloud storage and sync services.

It should be significantly easier that it currently is for an individual to host their own servers for calendar, communications, and media streaming. For most people, wide geographic distribution isn’t a frequent need, and for those who need it there’s no shortage of edge delivery strategies that preserve ownership while increasing delivery. When properly designed and orchestrated, semi-self-hosted options could be more efficient and more secure while also being just as convenient (if not more!) for the average user.

If home networks supported a secure way of providing access to local storage (secure keys, VPNs and host mapping, automatic mounting, zero-byte placeholders, background fetching and cacheing) in a user friendly way, this would be be the norm today. However, while all the needed technologies exist, they are rarely implemented in a way that doesn’t 1) require a higher than average amount of technical knowledge i.e. you have to set it up yourself or 2) severely degrade the experience with things like slow connectivity or complicated setup and use processes.

An example

Many external displays—like Apple’s (late, rip) 27" Thunderbolt Display—provide ports that can be used to connect external storage devices via USB or Thunderbolt. Adding a wireless chipset and proper firmware to the display would enable it to act as a network storage host. Since the display already connects via Thunderbolt, the right OS components could negotiate a secure method of wireless communication and handle automatically switching between various methods of data transfer via all available interfaces, much like Apple’s AirDrop already does between iOS/MacOS devices.

While the example above doesn’t eliminate the problems solved by iCloud, Dropbox, et al., we might still reduce the reliance on external data transfer for many day to day tasks. Just one — though understandably complex and multifaceted, deep seated — change in how we approach personal digital technologies would go a long way towards reducing dependence on services that are highly exposed to risk and not always capable of acting in the best interest of each individual.

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