Dec 26, 2006

The Future: GOOGLE

Ever since reading the novel 1984 (about 25 years before 1984 actually came), I've been waiting for Big Brother to appear in history. It seems clear that Big Brother is coming closer with ever-expanding and powerful computer networks. As early as 2003 Google-Watch nominated Google for its "Big Brother" award, citing nine serious concerns--especially regarding privacy. Since then Google has advanced in age, talents, and power, as evidenced by reviewing Google's current services.

David A. Vise of The Washington Post is not the only one who wants to know "What Lurks in Its [Google's] Soul?"
Google is compiling a genetic and biological database using the vast power of its search engines; scanning millions of books without traditional regard for copyright laws; tracing online searches to individual Internet users and storing them indefinitely; demanding cell phone numbers in exchange for free e-mail accounts (known as Gmail) as it begins to build the first global cell phone directory; saving Gmails forever on its own servers, making them a tempting target for law enforcement abuse; inserting ads for the first time in e-mails; making hundreds of thousands of cheap personal computers to serve as cogs in powerful global networks.
Earlier this year, The Economist asked an important question and gave an answer:
If Google is a religion, what is its God? It would have to be The Algorithm. Faith in the possibility of an omniscient and omnipotent algorithm appears to be what Messrs Page and Brin have in common. It's 'in their DNA'...
So what is The Algorithm? The basic algorithm was discussed first by Alan Turing, called the "father of Computer Science." Turing was an English mathematician who studied artificial intelligence to determine if a machine could someday achieve consciousness. He developed the "Turing Test" in which a person alternately interrogates a computer and a real person (through teletype machines). If the interrogator cannot tell which is the real person, then it can be concluded the computer has achieved the intelligence and consciousness of a human being. Turing committed suicide in 1954.

The Economist further noted that Google is assembling a massive global computing grid. "'Eventually', says Mr. Saffo, 'they're trying to build the machine that will pass the Turing test'—in other words, an artificial intelligence that can pass as a human in written conversations. Wisely or not, Google wants to be a new sort of deus ex machina."

Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google in 1998. So who are Larry Page and Sergey Brin? What are their beliefs? Do they have a religion? Larry Page is known to have been influenced by Nikola Tesla, a brilliant Serbian inventor with hundreds of superior patents, yet who died poor in the 1940s. Wikipedia's article notes: "Many of his [Tesla's] achievements have been used, with some controversy, to support various pseudosciences, UFO theories, and New Age occultism."

Earlier this year Page and Brin founded a not-for-profit foundation,, and appointed Dr. Larry Brilliant as Executive Director to administer Google's philanthropic activities. The mission and strategic goals of seem somewhat similar to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (which is also funded by multi-billionaire Warren Buffet).

Dr. Larry Brilliant will decide the mission objectives of the Google charitable foundation and how to spend a great deal of money provided by Page and Brin to change the world. Wikipedia says Dr. Brilliant lived in India for ten years, first at a Himalayan ashram studying with Neem Karoli Baba (a Hindu sage) from whom he received the name Subramanyum. Later at his guru's insistance he began working as a diplomat for the United Nations to conquer smallpox.

Dr. Brilliant's interview tells us a lot more, including:
I did things that I would never imagine that I could ever do, or would want to do, again. I was part of the American Civil Liberties Union when I was back in Detroit, and here I was in India breaking into people's homes in the middle of the night and forcibly vaccinating them, because they were spreading smallpox to the entire world and there were some places that had become such broadcasters of smallpox that thousands of people were dying because that community would not allow themselves to be vaccinated, even when the law said they had to be vaccinated or they had to go to jail, or they had to be forcibly vaccinated. So, there were a lot of ways that you had to use the whole nature of yourself in service to this amazing historic moment.
The entire interview should be read to see glimpses of how Google and its not-for-profit foundation will change the world. Google's corporate philosophy should also be reviewed, including "Google believes in instant gratification." Even though the motto of Google is "Do no evil," Lord Acton observed: "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."


cranky said...

I read this just when I'd started to sleep peacefully again. I don't question your info, I do question what I should do. More Rosaries? Throw out computer? Get an Uzzi and wait? Organize somehow? I don't like the Hindu connection. Remember John Lennon and, who was it? Swami Cinerama?

Ian Parker said...

oclbelrwI put in "The season of spring" into Google translate (English/Spanish). Back came "La estacion de ressorte". Visions of elastic stations or possibly rickety footbridges.

Lets make one or two things clear.

1) It is impossible to pass the Turing test when nonsense sentences are produced. All someone has to do to beat Turing is to think in a second language and put in the appropriate response. I destroyed Alice's pretentions by discussing a boating holiday and a "vuelo de cerraduras". I did this first shot.

2) The Turing Test implies a level of appreciation. It is not proof of consciousness. It is proof of translation - true.

There are other search engines (eg Hakia) that are doing semantic analysis. Latent Semantic Analysis will resolve those difficulties at the expense of a more CPU intensive spider. Is that Google's secret project?

There is one thing that all competitors to Google have to remember and that is that Google is perfectly capable of pulling the stops out. Also Google is probably better placed to impliment the sort of Grid needed to do LSA on a large scale. To view my blogs

paramedicgirl said...

Good article. Scary stuff.