Human Action and the Cloud
I came across a passage today from Ludwig von Mises‘ classic treatise, “Human Action” which I thought might have some relevance in cloud computing as well. I’ll just start by quoting the passage, with the understanding that the context here is economics:
“There is no means by which anyone can evade his personal responsibility. Whoever neglects to examine to the best of his abilities all the problems involved voluntarily surrenders his birthright to a selfappointed elite of supermen. In such vital matters blind reliance upon ‘experts’ and uncritical acceptance of popular catchwords and prejudices is tantamount to the abandonment of self-determination and to yielding to other people’s domination. As conditions are today, nothing can be more important to every intelligent man than economics. His own fate and that of his progeny are at stake.”
“Whether we like it or not, it is a fact that economics cannot remain an esoteric branch of knowledge accessible only to small groups of scholars and specialists. Economics deals with society’s fundamental problems; it concerns everyone and belongs to all. It is the main and proper study of every citizen.”
Mises was a rationalist who accepted the limitations of human reason and economic calculations, but still saw human action — as opposed to the inaction of the content — as the most effective way to organize society faced with limited resources.
The key here is knowledge and awareness to use that reason — a quality not normally found among the content or uncurious — is required for a society to effectively deal with its challenges of finite resources.
I see many parallels here with cloud computing. In looking at the first paragraph it is mentioned how when the informed do not engage and speak up, self-appointed supermen will consolidate power and make decisions. Sounds like any IT departments you know of? “Blind reliance upon ‘experts’ and uncritical acceptance of popular catchwords…” — do we see this in IT departments today? Of course we do — and what results should we expect from such models? Are these IT captains steering the ships in the right directions?
There are the traditional siloed fiefdoms who simply don’t want much to change beyond an occasional tech refresh (also “server huggers”). IT Directors and CIOs who have not fully embraced a cloud inspired vision of how the economics of IT can change. The engineer who pursues technical certifications without a vision for how they might be applied to the business. The salesman who wants to sell infrastructure to meet quarterly numbers, rather than engaging in a mutually beneficial relationship to pursue the most effective implementation of technology pursuant to the organizations goals (including the ones they might not know about).
Read the following quote a second time, with the words “economics replaced with ‘cloud’:
“Whether we like it or not, it is a fact that cloud computing cannot remain an esoteric branch of knowledge accessible only to small groups of engineers and technology evangelists. Cloud computing deals with both IT and the business’s fundamental problems; it concerns everyone and belongs to all. It is the main and proper study of every stakeholder.”
This is where it becomes clear that cloud computing is more than just technology. It is also a vision and a culture. It is not a tactical solution but it is an end game. It requires the individuals of the IT society to not be complacent, but to be curious, endeavored and inspired. It requires human reason to analyze problems, parameters and even economics in order to improve the condition of all.
In Part One of “The NoCloud Organization” I wrote about just how complex the problems we are trying to solve truly are. To paraphrase Mise, in order to successfully advance cloud computing, Human Action — reason and calculation — is required. The same thought patterns, business models, leadership styles, roles and responsibilities, sales methods and career paths that brought us the legacy systems and applications we try to move beyond — will not be an effective means to promote the new paradigm of cloud computing.