This article was published on Mar 14, 2015.
I admit to not liking Google. Google aspires to control everything in the world. Google lobbies and sometimes bullies the government more than you can imagine. Google spies on regular people. Google frivolously and maliciously portrays life outside of its tentacles as old-fashioned folly. Google invests into biotech today, and plans to build futuristic nano-robo-
zombies-humans within three hundred years from now (I kid you not, links and references are at the bottom of this article). Google mercilessly profits from music piracy even though it pretends to be against it. Google calls music “content”, and strong-arms independent artists. Google loves algorithms, and it doesn’t love humans at all.
Like a selfish spouse, when it doesn’t get you, it tries to morph you into something more palatable (our brains get literally rewired from following computer-friendly algorithmic suggestions too much; neuroscientists concur).
As a very irregularly-shaped human with zero Google-readable nanoparticles running through my bloodstream and no desire to put Google in charge of my immune system ever, I have no reason to be excited about their idea of my future, and no reason to buy into their carefully worded, self-serving publicity bullshit.
To me, the pseudo-optimistic, predatory religion of Google is a proposal for domination of a particular psychological type. It doesn’t allow for diversity. You see those people in marketing meetings a lot. They are dudes and gals who take everything literally, who don’t have it in them to understand me, who are somehow bothered by my freedom, and who have the itch to redefine and explain my world to me just to feel better, and then monetize the fuck out of me.
Their perfect world does not allow for mysterious, unmonitored complexity. In their perfect world, I am simply a number, a blueprint for their big (data) dream. I don’t like that. They are robots. They are the legion. They want to eat me, and for that reason, we don’t get along.
But wait, to quote Hunter S. Thompson, there’s also a negative side.
An even bigger problem is that Google is almost immune to common criticism. Because, context. Because, “don’t be evil”.
A little bit of subjectivity: I am a Soviet expat. When I was growing up in the Soviet Union, people at the wheel were, of course, crooks, motherfuckers and assholes. But everybody knew that. In public, grown-ups repeated incredible lies all the time, but everybody knew it was theater. It was a ritual that all had agreed to participate in, but nobody believed.
Here, in America, in 2015, it’s different. You can say the truth, and you can keep saying the truth till your lips turn blue, but it almost doesn’t matter. Nobody has the attention span to understand what you are saying. Posting cat pictures is cozier.
You can say whatever you want because even when people quote you, they see you as a symbol, not as a real human being.
Your life is a great excuse to tweet. Your life is externalized and gamified. Conversations about important things routinely fall into the abyss of “meta”. Matters of life or death weigh as much as cute secretarial chatter in the big boys meeting room. I feel it with my skin. It hurts.
And God, yes. One is absolutely free to write a book packed with hard facts proving unequivocally that Google is out to get us, use us, squeeze us, eat us, and tell us that we asked for it–but even if every word in the book is verifiable, the conversation about it will be steered in the direction of small talk. “Meta” is the only format that is socially acceptable, the only format that grown-ups can safely practice without the fear of being ridiculed. As if we are spectators of our own lives. As if it is our social responsibility to castrate and downplay our irregularly-shaped selves.
There is a small-talkalizer running on everything.
“What, we may all die from an ecological disaster? People getting cancer? Wow, that’s so sad… what’s for dinner? Whoa, check out that dude’s abs, he is ripped!”
In Google’s perfect world, nothing is real.
But everything is real.
It just is.
Links and references:
“The ultimate search engines are as smart as people–or smarter”
(Academy of Achievement, “Interview: Larry Page”)
“Certainly if you had all the world’s information directly attached to your brain, or an artificial brain that was smarter than your brain, you’d be better off.”
(Steven Levy, “All Eyes on Google,” Newsweek, April 12, 2004)
“Now hopefully, [ultimate search engine] would never have a bug like HAL did where he killed the occupants of the spaceship. But that’s what we’re striving for, and I think we’ve made it part of the way there.”
(Spencer Michels, “This Search Engine That Could,” NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, November, 2002)
Nicholas Carr, The Shallows
Nicholas Carr, The Glass Cage. Automation and Us
#WeBelieveTheCellist: Google Smears @zoecello and All Independent Artists – Trichordist
Google’s Larry Page: The most ambitious CEO in the universe – Fortune.com
Blind justice: Google lawsuit silences elected state prosecutor – The Register
Are Google and Facebook Just Pretending They Want Limits on NSA Surveillance – Vice.com
Piracy for profit-YouTube’s dirty secret – Copyright Alliance
Why the Modern World Is Bad for Your Brain – The Guardian
Viacom vs. YouTube/Google: A Piracy Case in Their Own Words – Daily Finance
European Parliament to call for breakup of Google, report says – CNET
Google Spent Even More on Lobbying Than Comcast in 2014 – TIME
Google faces antitrust allegations over its ad-buying network – Yahoo! Finance
Cellist Zoe Keating Opens Up on Her YouTube Battle: ‘There’s a Lot of Fear Out There’ – Billboard
The Dark Side Of YouTube – Zack Hemsey
Plug and Pray – Hulu (documentary about Joseph Weizenbaum)