Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Googleworld & July 4th

#263 Googleworld

What IS Google, anyway? It started life as a really cool search engine, outperforming everything else on the planet, as it still does.

But after the initial public offering, it became a new age space invader, entangled in practically every aspect of American life. It’s a nation unto itself now. And it’s getting its tentacles into every possible aspect of your computer and in every aspect of social engineering.

Wouldn’t be surprising if you wake up one morning and find that it’s sent a regiment of its Kool-Aid-drinking cultists to take over Congress or General Electric.

We like our corporations to wear their predatory instincts on their sleeves. General Motors once occupied 60% of the new car sales terrain. No more. We found alternatives, because we knew what they were up to: an increase to 100%.

Until recently, Microsoft was the same way. And they made no secret of it. They were out to conquer the world. Not just the world of the personal computer, but the world at large. Now, in middle age, co-founder Bill Gates, richest man in the world, at least on paper, has turned to charity work. They had to beat him with a 2x4 before he did it. But he did it.

Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller were the same way. Kill them, then kill them again with kindness.

Wal-Mart wants to conquer the world just as badly as GM did. And they’re getting closer because there’s no viable competition. They get away with squeezing their stockholders, employees, suppliers and you.

Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffet is a middle ground. He seems a nice enough fellow, and doesn’t make overt killer moves. But neither does he pretend to be in some kind of public service.

Google does. It’s image is that of the smart-but-touchy-feely company that’s going to save your life, your soul and your butt.

Some recent headlines, either direct quotes or paraphrases, but quotation marks omitted:

GOOGLE BUYS WEB PHONE SERVICE

GOOGLE FACES TROUBLE WITH ‘DOUBLE CLICK’ DEAL

GOOGLE APPEALS BELGIAN COPYRIGHT LAW

GOOGLE WANTS ROLE IN MICROSOFT CASE, BURIES HATCHET

GOOGLE PARTNERS WITH LG (Korean electronics company.)

GOOGLE APOLOGIZES FOR MICHAEL MOORE DISS

…SPLAPPED WITH LIBEL SUIT

…ESTABLISHES PANEL OF HEALTH CARE EXPERTS

…TO STAGE CONTEST FOR 100 MPG CAR

Busy guys, the Googlers.

And a stock price to die for – and one that’s unlikely to retreat too far.

Google is its own tech bubble, but with a pretty hard shell.

And its own social action network.

And an advertising monolith.

It’s got its hands on your private parts, your bank account, your credit and your intellectual life.

And touchy-feely-fuzzy as it may seem now, the future is somewhere between George Orwell and Aldus Huxley.

--

Today is July fourth. It’s the birthday of the United States, technically speaking. We are in worse shape now than at any time since 1960. And what with globalization, war, health care, fuel prices, a White House that puts personal loyalty over justice and other values we like to ascribe to ourselves, the viral infection of our institutions by religious zealots of various stripes (but all positive that their way is the only way,) there’s little hope of emerging from the descending dark ages any time soon.

If we are to be saved, it won’t be by some deity or some plastic political candidate, but by our own national character: a can-do spirit, optimism, compromise and generosity to one another – and ourselves.

Happy fourth.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

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