08 Mar Google: See no evil, say no evil and hear no evil is not the same as “do no evil”
Epic battles between Good and Evil are the cornerstone of pretty much all religions. We can all agree on the fact that Louis Cyphre, with his long nails, was the very incarnation of a modern Devil. But is the case of GOOG equally easy to define? In the company’s opinion it is clear-cut since they included the words “do no evil” in their corporate policy, leaving MSFT to play the role of the villain.
However life is not that simple. Words by themselves are just a combination sounds depicted by letters on paper. Actions are what count and I for one and not so sure that Google is not to be feared, a foe that is much more powerful than Microsoft has even been. Yes, I know this places me alone against all but the Chinese government, but the Archangel may actually not be fighting any demons. This is the corporate world, and despite the best of intentions, the goal is to win the ultimate battle: market share, more money, earning per share and market capitalization.
So lets start this story using 2001 Space Odyssey as an example. The astronauts Dr. David Bowman and Dr. Frank Poole embark on a mission bound for Jupiter aboard the spaceship Discovery One to find out the origin of some sound coming from a black monolith. Discovery One is like Microsoft in the sense that it plays a vital role in the movie. Without it there is no trip to outer space and without Microsoft the majority of the computers around the world would be left without an operating system. But is that real power? Can the spaceship or Microsoft change our actions, the way we think and view the world? I admit that more than once I have cursed at the computer as it crashed – that f#¢%ing operating system – but my opinions have never been impacted by these trivial bugs flying around the binary code that processes commands.
On the other hand we have HAL 9000, the “human like” computer aboard the spaceship that takes care of practically everything. It is intelligent, crafty and tells us that “it can only be attributable to human error.” HAL is so powerful that it decides what the astronauts should think and do, dictating in the end its own rules light years away from planet earth. And this ladies and gentlemen is where Google is headed with our very own blessing, winning the ultimate battle of more market share, more money and much more.
All being said, Google has come out with a wide array of excellent products (Picassa, maps, mail, docs, Android, etc), purchased some missing links such as Youtube and continued to expand on its search engine perfection, now aided by its own internet browser Chrome. But the power, that which made HALL 9000 take leading command project, is its ability to control content through its search engine which is embedded in each of its products. Every time we do a search or connect with our friends Google learns more about what we are interested in, who we know and who we would like to know. With this information Google can tailor its answers to our own needs, perhaps even anticipating future inquiries. But are the objective responses what we are looking for or is Google, through minute changes in its mathematical results, actually showing us what it wants us to read, hear and purchase. It is scary when we see a Berlusconi taking control over the media, deciding what the people need and want to know, and with Google the entire world’s population is going in the same direction.
The internet, which has been an information and/or communication revolution, is shaping our lives much more that we can even imagine. You are now reading this post and will retwitt is soon. Others like you around the globe will be reading it in a few instants. Perhaps, for example, some of you might google the word@travelandtwitts, but the results will depend on how much Google continues to like @turiskopio after today. Somewhere inside its complicated algorithmics, Google just as HALL 9000 did, might decide that our little company is its enemy, dropping us out of the results and replacing us with some other option that is more in line with its own “do me no evil policy” and “be sure to pay me policy”.
So just because Goog says that they do no evil it does not mean that they are actually doing good. Their products and services are good and Google is only acting in its own interest as is normal and expected of any publicly quoted entity. However, the company’s strong hold over what we see on our screens poses some serious long term ethical dilemmas that should be addressed sooner rather than later.
And here goes my prediction, something we like to do here at Turiskopio. Google will continue to grow its market share of all internet related services. We will probably see the rest of the pack team-up in some sort of manner to compete, but their efforts will fall short. Therefore, and as Google becomes stronger it will face more and more pressure to be split into several different entities based on anti-monoploly reasons. On one side we will have the search engine, perhaps Andriod working as a player in the cell phone arena, travel related services spun off as another online travel agency, etc.