William Gibson on Google’s Earth

September 2, 2010

Source: New York Times

“I ACTUALLY think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions,” said the search giant’s chief executive, Eric Schmidt, in a recent and controversial interview. “They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.”

“G” as in God? Whether you found it online yesterday (31-Aug-2010) or in today’s dead tree edition (or just hearing about it now), cyberpunk’s godfather William Gibson gives his op-ed about Google’s want of playing god in telling us what to do.

OK, it’s not because of Google’s want of telling us what to do, but the apparent need of anyone who uses the big “G” to decide what they want to do. Those who use G’s services actually contribute to the search giant’s ability to make decisions for us. Gibson likens G to a genie that can grant our wishes:

We would all very much like to be sagely and reliably advised by our own private genie; we would like the genie to make the world more transparent, more easily navigable. Google does that for us: it makes everything in the world accessible to everyone, and everyone accessible to the world.

Of course, the “everyone accessible to the world” part is what some balk at as we find our personal information being more and more exposed online.

 

The inmates run the prison. The idea of Google being a sort of panopticon prison, with G as the proverbial omnipotent warden and us as the inmates, but Gibson argues that is only half-true:

In Google, we are at once the surveilled and the individual retinal cells of the surveillant, however many millions of us, constantly if unconsciously participatory. We are part of a post-geographical, post-national super-state, one that handily says no to China. Or yes, depending on profit considerations and strategy. But we do not participate in Google on that level. We’re citizens, but without rights.

As said before, it’s the people who use Google’s services who actually contribute to the building of the panopticon, and the real problem comes in when those people (over)expose themselves on social network sites. Gibson sees possibilities in a fake identity industry for such carelessness since Google doesn’t seem interested in protecting users from their own stupidity.

 

Don’t blame the government. It would be easy to do so IF the advances in technology wasn’t so quick. But when the only law Google follows is Moore’s Law, technology will always stomp a mud hole in legislation’s face and walk it dry:

We also seldom imagined (in spite of ample evidence) that emergent technologies would leave legislation in the dust, yet they do. In a world characterized by technologically driven change, we necessarily legislate after the fact, perpetually scrambling to catch up, while the core architectures of the future, increasingly, are erected by entities like Google.

Then again, Google is “a very large and powerful corporation to boot.” Too big to fail, and far too big to give a fuck.

This post has been filed under Internet Find, News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.

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