Monday, 27 April 2009

The future of Google and possibly life on this planet.

Just  yesterday, I got two invitations to connect via a social network. Not a big deal but that social network was Orkut. I can't remember when I signed up to Orkut but it must have been during my socialmediaholic stage. I first thought nothing of it but slowly but surely, like the liquid metal pieces of the evil android in Terminator II the pieces of Google's plot for complete internet domination is coming together.

I am a great supporter of a lot of Google's individual services. My main personal email address is a Gmail account and through that I can if I choose to use their GTalk IM service. I use Picasaweb along side Flickr and Photobucket. Some of the things that I don't use though are Orkut which sits in an odd market space. Not quite Linkedin but not quite Facebook either. Sort of like the poor cousin to Plaxo Pluse populated mostly by netizens from India. 

I use Google Reader religiously (mainly because it lets me read blogs that are otherwise blocked in China) and of course if you're reading this blog then you know that I also use Blogger which is also a Google Inc venture. At the back of your mind you know that this was all part of a huge strategy to take over the cyber-World but all these free services were just too damn convenient to ignore. Add to that Google Docs and you almost don't need to install any software on your computer.

Nothing seems new there but if you look at all these jigsaw pieces how would you put them together? Lets break them down:
  • Photo site with face recognition.
  • Blogging platform with blogger profile information.
  • Document/ spreadsheet manipulation and storage.
  • Social Network.
  • Instant Messaging (that includes Skype like VOIP)
  • Email (that can also support private domain names)
  • Google News.
  • Google image search.
  • Google Checkout.
and last but not least
  • Google Profiles.

Effectively this search engine company that promised us that they will "do no evil" has amassed the ingredients to completely control our online lives if it chooses to do so. To their credit, each functioning part of this online monster was launched and grown independently, like the individual arms and legs of a Voltron like manga robot but when they join together they appear to be some kind of undefeatable super robot. Imagine for a moment...

You check your Gmail, that is connected to your GTalk so you can be contacted by text or voice. Your news source also comes from the search aggregation of Google News that you get via your Google Reader. What you read is then shared with people who connect to you in Google Reader's shared items but also through Bloggers who follow your profile and whom you follow back. Eventually the people you follow join Orkut and put up personal information, photos etc like what people already do in Facebook. As the networks grow then become more interconnected. Your Google addessbook is the same as your IM list which then becomes the same as your Orkut friends who become the same people who subscribe to your Picasaweb albums. Oh and should I mention they probably have your credit card details too via Google Checkout.

Big deal I hear you scream. The danger is not the interconnectivity, it's the business that Google is in. Hoarding information. From Orkut it gets a piece of your personal information, from Picasaweb it learns what you, your family and friends look like and with geotagging they know where you've been. Your communications via GTalk and email are collected which is why you are given 7 Gig of storage space for free. Even Google Docs which is a better movement to public cloud computing than even Microsoft has out will be in the Google servers. Slowly slowly, bit by bit your identity from the smallest piece of sms to information on entire family trees will be collected, tagged and made searchable on Google's servers.

To top it all off, Google's new Profiles service lets you do all the hard work by linking all your social information onto one page.

All this story needs is a little bit of science fiction to make it scary.  

Remember when there was a little bit of hoo haa about adsense and context based advertising? Something that we now accept as the norm. The arguement against this was a privacy issue. We didn't want Google execs looking at our emails to put relevant ads into Gmail. Google told us only machines and algorithms were involved in the selection of contextual advertisements.

With so much of our information potentially hoarded by one company, how far are we really from developing artificial intelligence or at least those semi intelligent systems that form the basis of things like the Terminator, iRobot or Alien plot lines.

Don't laugh, when I was a kid, mobile phones were things that appeared in Star Trek and nobody knew what an email was. By the time my kids grow up, will the world be ruled by a machine?

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