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Larry Barnett
Public Citizen
Larry Barnett

Cloud Nine

How funny it is that everybody's talking 'bout The Cloud! English lexicon has caught up with the reality of human consciousness: we have always had our heads in the clouds. Human beings float in a boundless sky of mental and emotional ambiguity from which we extract concepts and string them together into seemingly coherent narratives; finding meaning is like seeing animals in the shapes of clouds. I say "seemingly coherent narratives" because the interpretation of words is dependent upon varying frames of reference, language spoken and context in which the narrative is delivered. For example, the same content delivered gently changes meaning when delivered harshly. This mirrors how our minds are built, an ambiguous cloud of bits of information and frames of reference from which we construct a boundless, so-called reality. In many respects our individual waking consciousness is very much like our dreaming selves, constantly presented with stimuli from our sensory experience-of-being from which we make and take emotional meaning. We see animals in clouds, or for that matter smiley faces in the carpet, because powers of internal visualization can be superimposed upon visible objects. Visualization is just one function of imagination; it's said that Einstein could visualize multiple dimensions, even the dimension of time. Some of us can imagine flavors, others sounds. In our dreams all of our waking sensory experiences become available for replication and presentation in a process of self-illumination. Neuroscientists have observed evidence of more brain activity during dreaming than they have observed during the wakened state. In essence, we are cloud-beings speaking in clouds-of-meaning to other cloud-beings. Ancient Chinese contained 60,000 separate ideographic symbols, each denoting an idea, several ideas, or the portion of a idea - what we call words but what are actually clouds-of-meaning. Mixed and matched, established in written form or delivered verbally, the dynamic boundlessness of imaginative visualization enables communication. All human communication has always been in The Cloud; this is not something new brought forth by the digital age. Apple's Cloud, or for that matter Google's or Microsoft's merely replicate, in primitive form, one function of human mind, namely the storage of clouds of bits of information which can be compared and matched to either "yes/no" - digitally one or zero. The volume of information in the digital cloud is greater than that of any individual human mind, but any individual human mind has a storehouse of sensory experiences which dwarf the terra-bits of "yes/no" data in the digital cloud. All technology replicates and extends the functioning of human sensory capability. This is as true of the wheel as of the digital computer; the wheel is an extension of running legs (think bicycle) and the accumulation and matching of data in The Cloud is an extension of human memory. The great difference, of course, is the nature of consciousness. Consciousness creates the illusion of individual self and other individual selves precisely because it can imagine such things. The nature of cloud-like consciousness is its boundlessness; its  ambiguity a sign of the richness of hidden information. It is within The Cloud of Consciousness conceptions of self and other arise and dissolve. Unlike a digital computer, we are not the simple sum of our collected data; rather, we are the boundless meaning born of ambiguous relationships in the open and flexible space between bits of data.
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