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the theology of google

An op-ed by Thomas Friedman in today's New York Times wonders: Is Google God?.

That's right boys and girls, all of you who had, up to this point, found solace in the quiet reverie found in a church, or a synagoge, or a mosque, those of you who had hoped to reach enlightenment and be up there with Buddha, those of you who thought that God couldn't exist, because if he did he would be a masochistic, spoiled brat, those of you who sat squarely on the agnostic camp and said, "There's no data either way", and those of you who worship or live by any other beliefs, or those of who who just have no idea of what's going on on this planet, well, it seems it's all over.

Kneel before your monitor, pray to the spirit of TCP/IP to deliver you from Evil, because Google is here.

What a load of crap.

How does he reach the conclusion, you ask? Well, apparently Google+WiFi means access to "all information", anywhere, anytime. This would seem to equal God. Never mind that the least of what's happening today is "Google+WiFi", never mind that the pervasive decentralization that is happening at all levels signals a shift at many levels on how we understand (and use) computers, networks, the Internet. Nevermind that Google could easily be obsolete in five years (and Google knows that, too).

It doesn't matter that google doesn't show you "all information" but what it thinks is more relevant. It doesn't matter that google's index can easily get swamped by new information, and therefore it sucks at finding old information that is quickly overrun. Google indexes the web today, not as it was last year, and therefore it's impermanent, real-time if you will, and it has an attention span equal to that of the people that put their information on the web, which isn't saying much. That is good for many reasons. It's useful. Sure.

Google is a good company, it takes good care of its employees and it truly cares about what it does. Its main product is enormously useful. The company excels at what it does.

Does that turn google into a deity? Nah. But it does make it a good lever on which journalists and other hypemeisters can lean on to extol whatever idea they have in their head. If it's after a complimentary tour of the company, all the better--which is of course no coincidence. In the past few weeks I've read of several people that have "taken a tour" of the company's headquarters, as if it was a modern Mecca of some kind. Make no mistake, Google's appearance is carefully crafted. From its minimalist website design, to its low profile in general (and its resistance to going public). I'm sure the PR guys at google work hard to create good publicity, but this is too much (and, almost certainly, unintended: after all, how do you control delusional journalists that happen to have a big bullhorn?). Googlers reading the article must surely feel happy and proud (and rightly so), but I imagine that a tinge of uncertainty and fear must be mixed in as well.

After all, if people talk of you as God, is there anywhere to go but down? (Since you're not, and you know it).

I'll go along with the idiotic google-is-god meme just for a second, to add this: No one likes a Messiah that gets to live to old age and retire peacefully. And martyrs are always popular, even in the tech industry.

Just ask Netscape.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 29, 2003 at 4:42 PM

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