Google has a level of power that’s greater than a lot of national governments. They offer an amazing range of free tools for business and education and entertainment. They’ve done some things that no one has ever done before, including mapping the whole world for the first time in human history.
Is that exciting or disturbing?
To say that Google is big is an understatement. They brought in nearly $60 billion in revenue last year, they own YouTube (the second largest search engine) and Picasa and Blogger and more stuff than we have time to list, and they account for 67.5% of Internet searches. They have their own facility dedicated to technological advancements (Google[x]), they have a satellite in orbit, and they’re currently curating an astounding virtual art collection. They’re making impressive progress with artificial intelligence, and they’ve been able to persuade a lot of people to wear their special glasses. They produce their own energy and fiber optic networks, and they have control over unimaginable amounts of data. Google is gargantuan. Is it possible for a company as large as Google to live up to their slogan of “Don’t be evil”?
The Internet is a virtual playground for conspiracy theorists, and there are plenty surrounding Google (probably formed through Google searches). There’s one about Google becoming self-aware, and another about Google being used to gather information for the US government. It doesn’t really take much to get theorists going, but with the reach and resources that Google has it was only a matter of time before they were the inspiration for a few conspiracy theories.
It’s highly unlikely that Google is building a fleet of killer data-harvesting robots, but it’s an entertaining idea. Let’s enter the realm of science fiction and suppose for a moment that an evil scientist decides to take over Google.
They know all about each one of us, the conspiracy theory goes, and they’re already manipulating organic search results to sell ads. With an evil scientist at the helm, Google could totally control what information we see and make us all think the way they want us to think. They could manipulate the information shown to us about political candidates, for example, and cause us to vote the way they want. With the things they know about us from our search habits and our email, they can fine-tune their messages to appeal directly to our emotions, and total world domination is just a click away.
Salvation is also just a click away. Rely on Bing instead of Google for your search needs and you’re safe.
Google is definitely powerful. If seeing all that power in one place makes you nervous, that’s understandable. But Google also definitely seems to be holding true to their unofficial “Don’t be evil” slogan. The list of things that shows their power is also a list of wonderful things they’ve done for the advancement of knowledge. And they are definitely growing that power with the consent of the people who use their services.
What do you think?