Stephen E. Arnold: Google: An Island or a Digital Monaco?

Commerce, IO Impotency
Stephen E. Arnold
Stephen E. Arnold

Google: An Island or a Digital Monaco?

May 19, 2013

After several days of rehash about search, I am running out of energy for topics related to information retrieval. Hello, hello, search today is not much better than it was five years ago. In fact, when it comes to locating high value information, I think we are now regressing.  I took a moment to read “Welcome to Google Island.” It’s a Condé Nate thing. I am okay with trendy writing, but at age 69 I think a trend is a Silent 700 terminal with a fresh roll of thermal paper. There you go, young folks.  The main point of the write up is that Wired found the Google conference in mid May 2013 sort of disconnected from the mainland. I ignored the utopia stuff and I shudder when me too companies do the innovation thing.

Here’s a passage which I marked with my trust yellow highlighter:

“Governments are too focused on democracy and rule of law. On Google Island, we’ve found those things to be distractions. If democracy worked so well, if a majority public opinion made something right, we would still have Jim Crow laws and Google Reader. We believe we can fix the world’s problems with better math. We can tear down the old and rebuild it with the new. Imagine Minecraft. Now imagine it photorealistic, and now imagine yourself living there, or at least, your Google Being living there. We already have the information. All we need is an invitation. This is the inevitable and logical end point of Google Island: a new Google Earth.”  And I realized I believed him. I believed in him, even. Sure, he’s a weird guy living in his own world. But what vision! And I wanted Google to make my world look like its own. And I wanted to give it all my information, about everything in my life, even my most private shameful thoughts. I put the glasses back on, and took off my pants. We stood, naked, before each other with no secrets, no rules, and no shame. And I knew I never wanted to leave Google Island. Even if I could.

I assume that the write up is Swiftian, but with Condé Nast one never really knows.

Several thoughts:

First, we are returning to the walled garden view of technology. Sure, there’s lots of talk about open, but big companies are gunning for lock in.

Second, when outfits operate with sweeping visions, some of the faithful may not follow along. Even cults experience some attrition.

Third, Google is embroiled in a dispute with England over taxes. The fix may be to set up a summit between England’s prime minister and Google’s chairman.

Net net: Google is not an island. Google may be operating more in the Luxembourg or Monaco mode. The prince, I believe, is a strong advocate of the blue fin tuna. And Luxembourg is really into money.

I am not sure the island metaphor is the right one.

Stephen E Arnold, May 19, 2013