Sunday, 12 July 2009

Is Google watching you?

Eric Schmidt knows I'm writing this. He probably knows you're reading it. So you should probably take the chance to read about him and the founders at Google -where he's the CEO - in the latest Wired here. They know what you search for, where you go, even where your car keys are, or they will soon, so you better pay some attention to what they're thinking. (Apart from anything else there are some interesting new ideas.) Here's a few quotes that set me thinking.

“We don’t have a big picture. We don’t have a five-year plan, we don’t have a two-year plan, we don’t have a one-year plan. We have a mission and a strategy, and the mission is… you know, [to organise] all the world’s information. And the strategy is to do it through innovation. It doesn’t bother us if something doesn’t work. Because we understand that something else will work.” Interesting, though more possible if you have the kind of resources they do at Google - if you can afford to lose $0.5Billion a year on youtube you've got time to work out a viable business model, I guess.

"Would you like to be able to say to Google, ‘What should I do tomorrow?’ or ‘Where are my car keys?’ We’re just at the beginning of answering the really hard questions. We’re good now at cataloguing, indexing stuff that’s already been written. But what about meaning, what about understanding real intent? These are very, very hard problems, and search is the way to access those.” Both barking and a little worrying. What will happen to the English Lit and Philosophy depts if you can google 'real intent' as well as quotes for your essay?

One of the originators of Google, Sergey Brin, did make me smile with this insight: 'Small local businesses can increasingly use video – you could easily imagine restaurants showing what they serve, people happily dining away, then you’ve got a sense of the atmosphere.' Isn't this just the old ads for local Indian resturants that led to so many classic moments? Is the old always wrapped up in the seeming new?

Anyway, it's worth a look. (That's my office window in the middle on the ground floor, by the way, courtesy of Street View. You can see my car in the car park too...)

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