Review the abstractions, in long form


"Supercomputers via web"

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing or "the Cloud" refers to computing services you get over the internet. If the power grid is what lets anyone access 'unlimited' electric power, the Cloud is the power grid for 'unlimited' supercomputing power. When you 'plug in' to the cloud, instead of using your own computer to do everything, you send some of the work to supercomputers using an internet connection. These supercomputers you are using from far away are usually owned by major technology companies (and they have great computers). Each cloud service from these companies is made available for you to use for a service fee (instead of having to buy the computer yourself). It makes sense for you to "rent" these computers because they are much more powerful and efficient compared to yours, and, it costs you much less than the cost of buying one. 

Just like electricity, cloud is changing everything. Anything we need to store or calculate, you can "store on the cloud" or calculate much quicker using supercomputers. just like electronics were revolutionized by the wall outlet, everything in technology is being revolutionized by cloud computing. 

The Cloud is also standardizing computing in three categories: developer skills, systems to handle specialized kinds of computing needs and pricing for computing power as a commodity, like energy. 

'information in standard format'


Data does not exist. No, really - it's not a real thing - just something we use to refer to Information. Information does exist, though, and we have discovered that if we standardize information we can do all sorts of great things with it: share it (like a letter), store it (like a book in a library), or combine it with other data (like singing the words in the song to the music notes instead of just reading them).

When information becomes standardized then it can be called data, whether that standard is as complicated as your DNA or as simple as you moving a pen around a page to write words in your own handwriting. 

And just like your own handwriting, data is shareable, readable and encoded. In the handwriting example you are encoding the information in your thoughts in the language you are writing in. This applies for all data, even the data moving at lightspeed through computers. 

That's why we call them, "computer languages." Knowing a computer language lets you write information down in that language, and it's the information coded in that data that tells computers what to do. The data is the container for the information. 

Engineers are interested in what standard to use for computer languages, because just like speaking another human language lets you share the meaning of the same thought in a different way, whatever we use for computers can change what the computers can easily understand what to do with that information. Some things are very easy to say in French, but harder in Chinese. In technology, the same is true of different computer languages. But no matter the language, almost any piece of information can be captured in a standardized format, and almost any kind of data could be made to do almost anything you want.

Scientists think there might actually be a theoretical limit to the amount of information in the universe, but since you can encode information in limitless ways to create data, there is no limit to the amount of data we could make. Everyday we are making more and more of it, to do all sorts of things using the internet. But now that you understand data versus information, you should see that the internet itself is not the data, but the choices we have made about how to share that data and what to do with it.

'who someone is to a system'

Digital Identity

If you were walking in a dark forest and you saw a figure, would you be scared? What if you recognized a friendly face? Not so scared, now. 

Our brains are very interested in the people around us, and so we keep records we use to recognize them as whoever they are to us. As social animals, this is extremely important to us. 

Systems and computers we build also try to use something to recognize us. Sometimes that's obvious - like when we log in and say "hey, this is me! let me in!" and sometimes not to obvious, when you might look like lots of other people to a computer and it has to guess which one of them is the real you.

Digital Identity refers to that thing (whatever it is/they are) that separates you from other possible people, so a system can know it's you. But just like you want to be able to control when your friends see you, and how, there's a lot of work right now on making sure that computers have the same rules. Being able to recognize you leads to all sorts of information that can help or hurt in the right or wrong hands. If you are a vegetarian, you definitely want your waiter to know that about you, but if you are trying to hide yourself from something dangerous, you might put up your hoodie. We are working right now on finding the right way to let the waiters know, but keep the dangerous people in the dark. It's important to understand how you are creating data that can lead to you being recognized, and that we makes rules for those using supercomputers to identify us so they know us the way we want to be known. If we can have the best of both worlds, we could make a lot of things better for everyone.

'what data about you is collected, when?'

Data Collection

In this abstract, we covered the major ways that data about you can be collected, often without your knowledge.

Downloading an app releases your mobile ID to the app publisher. This allows them to identify your device, what other apps you have installed already and other data according to the permissions you have accepted. 

Using Public WiFi can let the owners of that router capture your entire web traffic while you are connected. 

Logging into a website puts you into a "logged in state" and gives the owners of that website the ability to identify your web traffic from everyone else's. When you create an account on a website, any information that is 'required' also is associated with your login.

Leaving your phone on in your pocket tracks your movements and when and where you stop. This can be used to predict your next movement, and over time creates an incredibly powerful dataset. Location data is by far the most valuable to collect.

Using a Credit Card shares your Name, Address and Credit Card Number with the 'point of sale' system. This allows whoever is receiving your swipe to look up your other credit cards if you have used them at their store(s) or online, and to track your purchases and find out what advertisements you were shown prior to your purchase.

All of this data can be collected and combined to get a very powerful picture of exactly who you are. Data Privacy Laws are coming out to allow you to delete this information and you should. It's less important that you prevent data capture than it is that you prevent data combination. 

California Consumer Protection Act


CCPA is a data privacy law that covers residents of California and grants them certain rights as a 'Data Subject'. Similar to GDPR, this law is designed to give you some control over what data about you Collected, Stored and Sold.

You can find more about the law here:

These definitions are simplified from the abstraction video series to encourage conceptual understanding. *By technical standards they are/might be inaccurate/imprecise.*

Got an idea for a tough to unpack concept that we all should understand better? Submit it for Abstraction!