Installing the Digital Veil

In the time of Jesus’ birth, the structure of worship was pretty straightforward. There was one channel through which the people of Israel worshipped God. The high priests were the sole path to get to God. Sacrificial offerings made for forgiveness of sin had to be done through the high priest. Prayer requests went through him. Worship couldn’t occur without him. If a person wished to have right relationship with God, it could not happen without a relationship with the high priest. The life, death, and resurrection of Christ turned this all on its head. By offering salvation to all through His sacrifice on the cross, Christ allowed direct access to God for all who believed. The veil was torn (Luke 23:44-46), and the middle-man role of the high priest was made irrelevant. Worshipers were freed from a dependency on the high priest to make sacrifices to God for forgiveness of sin. By being the perfect sacrifice, Jesus’ death on the cross paid that debt forever.

Needless to say – this was kind of a big deal. Calling it a revolution would be an understatement. It changed the religious power structure. Before Christ sacrifice on the cross, the priestly class had control the eternal lives of their followers. And with that power, they could dictate the behavior of their followers in this life. That type of centralized power in any human hands will lead to abuse. Not only did Christ free us from sin, He also freed us from this type of oppression on earth.

Fast forward to another revolution. The creation of the personal computer in late 1970s brought an entire new set of capabilities into the world. Personal computers took the ability to perform complex and specialized tasks and put it in the hands of average people. This was indeed one of the goals behind the creation of the PC. Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer and father of the personal computer once said:

“At our computer club, we talked about it being a revolution. Computers were going to belong to everyone, and give us power, and free us from the people who owned computers and all that stuff.”

Through computer software, such as word processors, spreadsheets, and databases, individuals could now perform complex tasks with professional looking results. Before PCs, large companies or individuals with specialized training were the only ones capable of doing these tasks. Imaging trying to design and print stationary, or trying to re-touch and develop photos in the early 1970s. For the average person at that time, the only way to do this would be to hire expensive specialists. Now, one person can do all these things independently, with limited experience and cost. As computers became more sophisticated, the ability of the individual increased, and more specialized fields and professions were disrupted.

This brings us to where we are today, with the advent of cloud computing. Cloud computing, to describe it simply, is the storage of data, software, and processing power in centrally located server farms. Put another way, the cloud is computing power held in centralized locations. Individuals gain access to this computing power via simple, low power systems via the Internet. The computers used by individuals to access this power aren’t capable of doing much without being connected to the Cloud. Conversely, the ability for an individual to do anything sophisticated would be dependent on his or her status with the Cloud. For example, both Microsoft and Adobe have transformed their bread and butter software offerings (Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite, including Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.) into cloud-based apps. Access to these programs is available through a monthly service fee. Additionally, everything you create with these programs is by default stored on their remote servers. While both companies still offer full, “ownable” versions of their software, Microsoft and Adobe have made it clear that this is not the future of their business. They are not alone in this view. Companies such as Google, Amazon, and Apple all are re-orienting the direction of their companies towards cloud based products and services, including data storage and software.

The rise of cloud computing, when juxtaposed with these two previous revolutions, raises some interesting questions that are worth considering. What does it mean for the people when increasingly everything they create begins its life online? What does it mean for the people where increasingly all the digital tools they need to earn a living are only available through cloud-based services? What does it mean for the people where increasingly all of the artifacts of their lives (things they’ve made, photos of family and friends, cherished written memories) exist only in a digital cloud?

An argument can be made that we will have installed a digital high priest – a middleman through whom we must go through to accomplish much of the needed things of everyday life. While that may not make much sense now (“Hey – I can walk away from Instagram. It’s not that big a deal…”), walking away might not be so easy in the not-to-distant future, as more and more of our lives move online. Prior to the life of Jesus Christ, the high priests could use eternal damnation to control the earthly behavior of the Israelites. In a future where much of what we are and do will be dependent on cloud-based data systems, wouldn’t the owners of the cloud have that same type of power?

What’s your opinion? Share it in the comments!!!

3 thoughts on “Installing the Digital Veil

  1. Throwing It All Away – Bytes & Belief

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