God & “The Cloud”

Cloud JesusI hate the expression “The Cloud” because like “God” is stops people from understanding what they are actually doing or thinking.

When I save digital documents on my Apple iCloud account, they are stored on one (or more) of Apple’s servers. Similarly, Drop Box and Google offer me free storage on their servers.  And apparently any documents I store there are also then in “The Cloud”.  And before the term “The Cloud” came out, I stored my posts on WordPress servers.  But now shouldn’t we consider them in “The Cloud” too.  All of that storage space is on privately owned servers (a type of computer).  I even pay a yearly fee to rent server space from DreamHost to store some websites I manage for private organizations.  Well, are they now in “The Cloud” too?

All that storage is on servers that live in real buildings, owned by real people.  That storage does not float out in a mystical fuzzy space.  Drop Box, Google, WordPress, DreamHost and Apple do not exist in the same “Cloud”.  In fact, there is no “Cloud” — it is merely an abstract word which, tricks people into thinking it is substantial; that it is one singular, concrete thing.  Arggh!

“God” is very similar, but to get believers to see behind that curtain is tough.  Heck, it is often equally tough to get educated unbelievers to see behind “The Cloud”.  The common obstacles to getting folks to see behind “The Cloud” are that they:

  • never used the Cloud
  • have used the Cloud, but don’t know they’ve used it
  • don’t care about the Cloud or those sort of issues
  • care a little to hear but don’t understand enough about the internet to understand

Question to readers:  This post is not about “the Cloud”.  It is about a cognitive illusion that is shared in both religious and secular thinking. Tell me in the comments why you imagine I see “The Cloud” phenomena similar to “God” phenomena — and please do share disagreements too.

Pic credits: Jesus in the clouds, the computer




Filed under Philosophy & Religion

22 responses to “God & “The Cloud”

  1. When I save digital documents on my Apple iCloud account, they are stored on one (or more) of Apple’s servers.

    The term “cloud” is supposed to dissuade you from thinking about it that way.

    Your document might be on a Apple server in Cupertino today, and tomorrow it might have been migrated to an Amazon server in Seattle or a Google server in San Francisco (or elsewhere). The idea of the cloud is that the data is not physically tied to a specific server in a specific location, but can be moved around with automatic switching to a backup site if a particular server goes down.

    “God” is very similar, but to get believers to see behind that curtain is tough.

    The difference is that we have precisely specified procedures that your computer can follow to build a data pipeline to the appropriate place in the cloud. With “God” there are no procedures that are known to work, though there are many claims.

  2. Likewise, Neil, “God” is suppose to dissuade us from thinking that we make up our own morals and our own meaning — an uncomfortable truth. You see how my analogy works?

  3. TWF

    I can see your point. And pretty much any abstraction has the same benefits and suffers the same follies. They’re tools. It’s when we romanticize the tools and forget their purpose that we get into trouble. The difference in religion, of course, is that the abstraction is all there is for believers. There is no breaking it down into components; at least not in the same sense of physical, tangible components.

  4. Sabio, I share your observations. Indeed, “cloud” is just a catchy word. Most people have no clue what it is and several companies want to have it this way. Just like religion 🙂

    But this is not the only buzzword which is disorienting. Other words which come to mind include (some of them obsolete) “information superhighway”, “electronic brain”, “artificial intelligence”, “smart phone”, “cloud computing”.

    If you are in the business of working with these things (and, in a generalized sense I am–or I was [I’m trying new atheism now]) then you perceive them as cute buzzwords or as fancy names, or marketing devices, but, in reality, you ignore the meaning carried out by the word itself and use them, simply, as labels for something else. But not everyone is in this business, and not everyone should be either. In fact, I fell out of love with this business and try to focus on abstract and “useless” thinking instead.

  5. @ Takis,
    Thanks mate — and you are right about the other words.

    @ TWF,
    I disagree that “pretty much any abstraction” has the problems I discuss above. This is a particular class — as Takis elaborates.

  6. “All that storage is on servers that live in real buildings, owned by real people. That storage does not float out in a mystical fuzzy space.”

    Hey Sabio,
    I have been following your blog for a couple of months, but have never commented. I really enjoy your writing. The above quote from this post reminds me of how religious people interpret a soul. Our feelings, thoughts, and memories are basic chemistry in the brain. Yet they want to attribute it to some mystical immaterial soul or spirit.

  7. Exactly. But, to take the devil’s side and for argument’s sake, you start from some rational hypothesis: “Our feelings, thoughts, and memories are basic chemistry in the brain.” Well, those people do not. They believe that feelings, thoughts, memories, cognition,… may have a chemical basis but are also composed of some soul-ful chemical as well (which cannot be detected, measured or defined.)

  8. @richardmarlowe
    Excellent. Spot on. You got my point. Thanx.

    @ Takis:
    Soul-fuel Soul-ful LOL

  9. Oh yeah! Soulful soulfuel ™ .
    Lets Trade Mark it.

  10. Gun

    Believe nothing what other people say is true, until you have the same experience, knowing, revealing or what we may call it! This ought to be taught by every teacher undependent on if it´s about philosophy, psychology, religion, mathematics, chemistry etc. It will be “our own” first when any issue is revealed not merely by our brain but by a feeling of an inner acceptance of a fact when experienced and deeply understood.
    This fact was taught by all of our great masters which had no intent to form any religions out of the facts, that they had revealed about our existence. They had all been very interested to find out what life is all about and by eagerly seeking within they revealed that the (electromagnetic) life force building up our human bodies is one and the same for all of us. Thus their message was: Love your nearest as yourself! You are all ONE.

    I have experienced this oneness that cannot be described or named although it has been named God (from good?), Allah, Jahve, Tao etc.
    It cannot be organized by any religions as they only separates us. When revealing the oneness it can only be shown by living a life in harmony with all there is.

    Thus we are able to find out that we are more than “our feelings, thoughts and memories” but it is up to every human being to open up to let us call it
    the soul which can be detected but not measured or defined. We are parts of a gigantic beautiful soup where each part has it´s own place in the ongoing evolution.

  11. Etymology of “god”: it has nothing to do with “good”.

    (Incidentally, in Swedish, the word “god” means “good” [and “gud” means “god”]. Even still, all that is coincidental.)

    I like the beginning of your posting, but I find the last paragraphs a bit lukewarm. And the penultimate sentence,

    … the soul which can be detected but not measured or defined …

    leaves a kind of bitter taste in the mouth.

  12. @ Gun,
    Interact more with the post and stop the preaching, or go away.

  13. Gun

    As far as I understand I was refflecting on your
    “God is very similar but to get believers to see behind that curtain i tough”

  14. Gun

    To Takis:
    By going deep within I detected that my inner being was a part of the WHOLE, that we at this moment cannot measure or define.

  15. @ Gun:
    Let me make some suggestion for interacting on my blog if you decide to stay (though reading your material, I doubt you would be interested very long):

    The most important thing is to show you are interacting with what I write in a post.

    Your comment just blasts off with a command and preaching. So maybe you should have said something like:

    “Sabio, in your post you said XYZ but I disagree and here is why.”

    And even more important than just choosing one phrase from the post to spin off on a rant, is to try and figure out the main point of my post — show that you understand that point, talk about it and then give your opinion.

    Just a thought — otherwise, I won’t interact with your comments and I may actually delete preaching rants that show not effort at interactions — New Age, Christian, Atheist , Buddhist or anyone’s.

  16. If we cannot measure or define, how can we talk about it; I mean, how can we use it other than as a cute abstraction? You know, I love literature and “magic realism” (Marques) and all that, and can devote time reading poetry or entertain myself with abstract art. But the “eternal Tao” you are referring to is only a metaphor. I know that the Tao that can be named or measured [!] is not the true Tao, but I won’t claim that these things exist in the same way that cognition exists.

    Yes, it’s hard to convert believers, and I’m not trying to do that. I will, however, point out logical inconsistencies, fallacies and will read their holy texts. Especially because some of these believers use their beliefs to influence society (e.g., some politicians), education, etc.

  17. Gun

    “It is about a cognitive illusion that i shared in both religious and secular thinking”.
    I fully understand and agree with you on this fact. The pictures we have made of different gods are illusions because we have separated us from the source of all life and thus from eachother. I tried to explain why any belief about whatsoever issue is an illusion until we have been eagerly seeking a deeper understanding of that the goal is to be a light to oneself and thus undependent on outer authorities.

    I wonder: In which separate cloudboxes are you putting me and yourself and which are your labels on the boxes? Why on earth are you feeling that I am a threat to you?

    BTW Thank you for mentioning David Chapman´s blog! Since many years I have been interested of knowing more about philosophic lineages in Tibet in the 11th century. A clairvoyant told me that I have been living there then belonging to a philosophic group and that I there had got a state of connection to the WHOLE.

  18. Gun

    Do you know that love exists? We cannot measure it but we can talk about it and we can see it in the eyes of lovers. Have you had no cognition of it? Or have you been thinking of a friend and then experienced a phonecall from that same person within some minutes?

    People with beliefs do influence society and commonly negatively as different beliefs are working toward separation. But by being interested to get to know how we get our minds trapped in illusions, it is really possible to live a life in freedom in the timeless NOW without any belief. And then we are also influencing our society but in a positive way to achieve harmony and peace on earth.

    J.Krishnamurtis books (and lectures now found on Youtube) were of great help for me.

  19. Gun: You say…
    Or have you been thinking of a friend and then experienced a phonecall from that same person within some minutes?
    This is called coincidence and, yes, by sheer chance, it can happen to some. But there is absolutely no mechanism in one’s mind which will predict such events.

  20. “The Cloud” bugs me too, but it’s really just a marketing term, and I imagine non-technical people find it less intimidating than “server”.

    The concept of oneness is interesting to me. Many things cause our endorphins to rise, some would feel this sense of oneness while viewing a glorious sunset, another may experience it via connecting with someone they didn’t expect to. For me, it comes down to a combination of endorphins, emotions, and empathy. I don’t see anything spiritual, in the supernatural sense, regarding this sense of oneness or connectedness, but many do, just as some people view a bunch of network connected servers as “The Cloud”.

    On a connected side note: my wife and I have been watching a new show called Intelligence. The premise of the show is that a man had a chip implanted in his brain that gives him real-time access to just about every digital database on the earth, and a sort of super enhanced eidetic memory. He’s literally directly connected to “The Cloud”.

  21. @ Mike,
    That is fascinating about being literally connected to “The Cloud”. Makes my point exactly. Thanx.

  22. Google Glass seems to be a step in that direction. I’m sure Google would love to put chips in our brains.

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