Convert now!

September 10, 2009 at 2:00 am 2 comments

muccicrop-420x0A ThinkingShift reader from New Zealand sent me a link to an article that really extends Thomas Friedman’s New York Times piece. As we well know, Google is one of the most powerful entities on Earth and its shadow looms over the very future of the Internet. We Google this and that and many of us rely on the Google search engine for ‘the answer’.

We seem to be so in awe of Google that one Canadian dude has set up the Church of Google. No joke. Presumably his religion is called Googlism or Googology. The Church offers 9 proofs and I quote:

1. Google is the closest thing to an omniscient (all-knowing) entity in existence.

2. Google is everywhere at once (omnipresent).

3. Google answers prayers. (”As an example, you can quickly find information on alternative cancer treatments, or new and innovative medical discoveries, and generally anything that resembles a typical prayer.”)

4. Google is potentially immortal.

5. Google is infinite. (The internet can theoretically grow forever.)

6. Google remembers all.

7. Google can do no evil. (Google’s corporate philosophy is ”do no evil”.)

8. Google is believed. (The term ”Google” is searched for more than the terms ”God”, ”Jesus”, ”Allah”, ”Buddha”, ”Christianity” and ”Islam” combined.)

9. Evidence of Google’s existence is abundant. No faith is required.

There are even the 10 Commandments of Google. Now, once I recovered from my coughing fit and picked myself up from the floor, I checked out the Church site to see if it was all tongue-in-cheek. Could anyone actually be seriously suggesting that the Google search engine is the closest humankind has ever come to directly experiencing an actual God?? So who is Satan then? Bing?

Clearly, this parody religion can join the ranks of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (aka Pastafarianism) and is a humorous attempt at demonstrating that Google is pretty well omniscient and remembers everything.  And the religious day is September 14, when Google was first registered as a company. Mmmmm..I must note this in my diary as a religious holiday and take the day off work!  I wonder how one can become a Minister of the Church of Google. Ah, here’s the answer.

Amusing I’m sure to hear there is a Church of Google but there’s a serious undertone to this.  Google is the window to the internet for many of us. Some of us use Google Docs, gmail, Google Maps, Google Earth and Street View. You remember the recent incident when Google was attacked and tagged the web as malware and was virtually useless ? It showed what can happen when we rely too heavily on a single vendor who provides us with nifty products and services. If Ask.com had gone down, I’m not so sure many of us would have noticed. I read somewhere that in the hour or so Google was having its hissy fit, everyone rushed over to Yahoo! But guess what? The moment Google was back up, everyone rushed back to Google.

Google is becoming a monoculture. It is getting too powerful in the search and online advertising space IMHO. I for one am very concerned over the Google book settlement (which potentially could give Google the right to create the world’s largest digital library and create issues for future scholars). I will blog on this soon.  And did you read that Google has teamed up with Hasbro to launch a Google Maps version of Monopoly?

What next: Google Water? Google mobile? Google chewing gum? Google electricity? Perhaps not such a stretch of the imagination. Google is involved in water research and they’ve already produced an electricity power meter.  What can happen in a Google-only world? Here’s a few ideas:

  • innovation is stifled as search engine start-ups would find it difficult to launch themselves against the Google ediface (last statistic I read, Google had 63.1% of the search engine market. That’s a tough lead to beat).
  • Google could control the rules – business and private citizens would have to use Google the way it is. Too bad if you dislike their collection of data about you or the costs of online advertising.
  • Google dominates the media – there’s Google News and Google TV ads. I can imagine (as with the Google Books proposal) Google archiving and indexing every TV show ever produced – so we can sit back and one day watch Google TV online (and you’d probably have to enter your gmail account info to be able to access it).
  • I remember freaking out when I read George Dyson’s piece, Turing’s Cathedral. He was talking about a visit to Google and was told by one of his hosts following a talk – “We are not scanning all those books to be read by people…We are scanning them to be read by an AI.” So imagine if you will artificial intelligence scanning humanity’s knowledge in the form of digitised media, search patterns and user behaviour. Where could this lead to?  The freaky thing is that for this year’s April Fool’s day, Google announced it had developed CADIE: Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity and that CADIE had managed to create a blog by extracting patterns from the social web pages indexed by Google. Many a true word is said in jest – so perhaps Google are well down the path of AI.

Of course, Google is not holding a gun to our collective heads. We have a choice. Or do we? Who is Google’s real competitor out there? Twitter? Possibly. Because Twitter has the real-time conversation and search that Google doesn’t. But Twitter so far isn’t diversifying its base and getting into maps, web-based word processing, email, water research and so on.

What would happen if Google got its claws into the Invisible Web? I read recently that Google only indexes about 6% of the publicly available pages on the internet. I’ll do a post soon on how to navigate through the Invisible Web.

Meanwhile, I’m off for a lie down.

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