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How Google dominates us


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#1 Rail Paul

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 05:04 PM

The writer and philosopher James Gleick reflects on Google's role in the possession and identification of knowledge.

Most of the time Google does not actually have the answers. When people say, “I looked it up on Google,” they are committing a solecism. When they try to erase their embarrassing personal histories “on Google,” they are barking up the wrong tree. It is seldom right to say that anything is true “according to Google.” Google is the oracle of redirection. Go there for “hamadryad,” and it points you to Wikipedia. Or the Free Online Dictionary. Or the Official Hamadryad Web Site (it’s a rock band, too, wouldn’t you know). Google defines its mission as “to organize the world’s information,” not to possess it or accumulate it. Then again, a substantial portion of the world’s printed books have now been copied onto the company’s servers, where they share space with millions of hours of video and detailed multilevel imagery of the entire globe, from satellites and from its squadrons of roving street-level cameras. Not to mention the great and growing trove of information Google possesses regarding the interests and behavior of, approximately, everyone.

When I say Google “possesses” all this information, that’s not the same as owning it. What it means to own information is very much in flux.

In barely a decade Google has made itself a global brand bigger than Coca-Cola or GE; it has created more wealth faster than any company in history; it dominates the information economy. How did that happen? It happened more or less in plain sight. Google has many secrets but the main ingredients of its success have not been secret at all, and the business story has already provided grist for dozens of books.


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#2 Stone

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 07:26 PM

Ahh, I remember when the headhunter called to ask if I'd like to interview for the general counsel position at a small start-up called Google.

Edit: Although the first point in the above quote is rather meaningless to most of us, I do recall an odd and frustrating conversation with my father that started with him asking, "How does Google know that those websites are correct?"

And she was.