How can something be valuable and yet so plentiful. That’s the question I’m faced with related to computing power. I’ve been thinking about distributed computing and how any kind of economy can be derived from it. It becomes clear quickly that no one is going to get rich from this kind of model with a few machines. I don’t think that is the real point. I’m sure someone could figure out how to get rich because someone always does. Usually this person is in the right place at the right time with the right sense for business. Bill Gates comes to mind in the late 70’s. Anyways, there is always potential for someone to jostle the system to have it work to their gain.
What is starting to happen is that computers are becoming more dispersed with how they complete tasks. Instead of just dealing with one system, you might be dealing with a collection of machines to complete your task. This is already true for general web page browsing but it will become even more true when there is tighter task integration between clients and servers. Until now, most of this is done for free or a paid service contract from the ISP. The model of the net is largely based on paying for services up front for local access and then advertising for the actual content.
The writing is on the wall for major upheaval. The advertising model is remnant from the one-way media broadcast model. It is great for radio, TV, and even newspaper but completely ignores the value of the Internet. On the Internet, you potentially have direct contact with your consumer. You don’t have to broadcast anymore. Potentially you can relate to customers one-on-one and fully customize the interaction. So, what do we get? Silly ads that flash around and provoke us to click or shoot something in order to get a free ringtone.
I’m really not that interested in advertising but there is something else I have in mind. What if you could trade services? What if you could reduce or eliminate bills for services by providing services of your own.
Reserve Bank of Australia
Let’s say that you have an account with Citrix Online to use products like GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting. With this account, you would normally pay a certain amount for a certain period. What if you could volunteer your PC to do work for Citrix Online when you are not using it? What if this work could significantly reduce your costs with Citrix Online? I’m not saying this is possible right now and I certainly cannot represent the interests of Citrix Online. However, the question is formed. Would you be interested in donating cycles for the sake of reducing your costs?
Given that such transactions would be safe and not interrupt your work or cost you a fortune in electricity or bandwidth usage, would it make sense?
I’m starting to think that it would make sense. You give computing power and you get services for less or free based on what you give.
Something that costs very little (computing power that is unused) could actually give you value. Nothing for money! (cheap attempt at title tie in)
Be sure to provide feedback if you want this idea to live. If you don’t, the idea gets it.
The problem I see with this approach is inefficiency – in a world where we need to be increasingly careful about the environment having kilowatt plus space heaters on/under every desk is hardly sustainable. Google apparently discovered very quickly that the cost of electricity over the life of a device can easily exceed the cost of the device itself and they have almost certainly devoted considerable resources to curtail the power requirements of each of their nodes (every watt for them would be worth serious dollars). Yet still their new data center(s) are rumoured to require as much as 15MW of power!
It is for this reason that I am decidedly unenthused about SETI et al. If it’s a question that we feel we need to answer then we should be donating money or allocating taxpayer dollars to buy time on efficient and capable super computer(s) using clean (eg nuclear) power, not by keeping distributed, inefficient and relatively slow personal computers awake and sucking down dirty (eg coal) power.
As a user, I’d have no problem with receiving a tangible benefit for donating something I’m not using at all – spare CPU cycles.
However, it comes with a couple of caveats:
– There would have to be no reliability or performance impact to my computer in the slightest.
– The benefit received would need to be worth my while to sign up.
SETI doesn’t fall in this category for me, as I receive no benefit. Something that gave me a discounted service that I’d use or similar may be worth it.