Is too much Google a bad thing?

Posted on January 24, 2012. Filed under: google, internet, linux |

Larry Page and Sergey Brin
Is Google good for you? Well, you can have too much of a good thing,writes David Smith.
The company launched in a Californian garage 10 years ago next month has become one of the most wealthy and influential in the world. You might have found this blog post using its search engine. To google the weather, a cinema listing or an obscure fact in mid-conversation has become something of a reflex. Indeed my research for an article askingwhether Google is now too powerful involved a lot of googling. It has made our lives so easy that, in the Atlantic Monthly, the writer Nicholas Carr pondered: ‘Is Google making us stupid?’
Google was born just south of San Francisco where post-Sixties optimism, idealism and utopianism still reign supreme. The founders have an altruistic desire to make information available for free (while pocketing billions of dollars from advertising). Earlier this year in San Francisco I met Chris Sacca, head of special initiatives at Google from 2003 to 2007, whose blog includes a brilliantly written post about the day he witnessed a shooting. Last week the 33-year-old told me how staff at Google are given unprecedented autonomy and creative freedom: ‘I’ve never known a company have such a broad mission statement – to organise all the world’s information – and live up to it. Time limitations, cost, number of computers, bandwidth, fear of upsetting people didn’t apply. It was simply: what problem is this solving?’
As for Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Sacca is somewhat in awe: ‘They’re two of the smartest people on the planet. You can go to them with an idea and by the next day they’ve read everything on it. It’s almost intimidating how bright they are.’
But not everyone regards the project quite so benignly. Google’s product philosophy, launch fast and launch often, has given it immense reach and something approaching dominance of the online advertising market. Amnesty International was deeply unimpressed when Google bowed to censorship in China. And now almost every week the press is full of alarm, some of it over-hyped, about Google’s ability to hoover up our personal secrets. Even Barack Obama and John McCain are beating a path to the Googleplex, and the company will be co-hosting the Vanity Fair parties at the Democratic and Republican conventions.
In the age when knowledge is power, is it really healthy for any one organisation, particularly a profit-driven company, to have quite so much information at its fingertips? What do you think?

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