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Google Is Not Your Enemy. (But it’s not your friend either)
Valkyrie Ice McGill   May 13, 2014   mcgill20140513  

I am sure you have heard it constantly. "Google is (insert fear term here.)" They want to take over the internet, they are building skynet, they are invading our privacy, they are trying to become big brother, etc, etc, ad nausem.  Be it Glass, or their recent acquisition of numerous robotics firms, to even hiring Ray Kurzweil, Google has recently been in the news a lot, usually as the big bad boogieman of whatever news story you are reading.

And to be honest, if you don't know exactly what Google is up too, their actions can appear to be scary. They are working on making true AI. They are developing hardware that records everything you see, and keeps track of your location, software too. They have developed apps that know where you are and allow local businesses to access this data to "push" ads based on your physical location. And to be honest, if Google were a company like AT&T or Comcast, I would find that a bit worrisome.

But there is one very big, if not quite obvious difference between Google and the Telco's. The economic model under which they operate.

I have often explained the difference between an "Economy of Scarcity" which is based in "material goods" and the "Economy of Abundance" which is based in "Non-material goods" And it is this difference in models which explains why Google is not quite the threat you may think it is.

The Telco business model superficially appears to be one of services. They provide "data pathways" so at first glance, it may seem like they are a "non-material based" economic model, and thus to a casual observer it would be easy to assume that they are operating on an EOA model. But this impression would be quite wrong. You see, it's not the "data" that the telco's are selling. It's the miles and miles of phonelines, T1 lines, and fiber optics. Like most business models of the Economy of Scarcity, they function as "gatekeeper" who charge a toll to allow people to access the information superhighway. And they make a KILLING at it.

Both the recent Comcast/Time Warner merger attempt, and the current FCC controversy over "fast toll lanes" for data traffic, are efforts by these dinosaurs of the EOS to keep their stranglehold on those lucrative tolls they charge for use of the physical infrastructure they own, and have little wish to upgrade. In their eyes, they could care less about how many people they shut out and force offline. In fact, if they succeed, it will force a wholly artificial increase in "scarcity" for internet access, and allow them to make even more obscene profits... at least for a time.

However, Google is playing a completely different game. While it's true that it is a giant corporation, and it currently plays in the same league as many other corporations, where most of the companies are playing to win in the zero-sum game of the Economy of Scarcity, Google is playing a much longer game, based almost entirely in the Economy of Abundance. And while it is quite true that Google is out to make a profit, and it certainly isn't "a friend" in the sense that it actively looks out for humanities best interests, it nonetheless is vigorously pursuing long term goals that any transhumanist should find desirable.

Lets look at their recent "product", Glass. I've discussed this before, but it bears repeating. The Glass is not intended to be a successful product. If it were, they wouldn't be using a mono eyepiece and look like technology MIT was playing around with in the early 2000's. It would look a lot more like the META. No, what the Glass was intended to do was pretty much exactly what it has succeeded in doing, get a lot of attention (positive or negative, makes no difference) while actively demonstrating that it is possible for HUD glasses to function "on the street".

With their recent talks with Ray-Ban and Oakley, rumors of Samsung developing its own version of the Glass, and even the news of Sony's making a VR rig for the PS4 and Facebook's purchase of the Oculus Rift, Glass has pretty much served its purpose. Much like the "Google Phone" it's opened up a market for which other hardware manufacturers will compete, while Google itself fades back and becomes a supplier of software and operating systems. It's quite likely that within a few years, the "Eyedroid" market will be as profitable as the "Android" market is today.

And, meanwhile, Google will have created an "open source" platform for HUD glasses, more or less making it a de facto standard, and have who knows how many apps ready for use that will allow people to access "virtual" abilities that will quickly become seen as "indispensible." From "Google map overlays" to "AR games", to utilities of every type, Google will lead the way into the "AR/VR anywhere" world I discussed in my very first articles.

But they won't be done there. Google has, after all, made massive investments recently in robotics. Having seen what they did with the Google phone, and what is currently happening with the Glass, I have little doubt that Google's aim in this is to basically do much the same thing with robotics, create a de facto standard robot operating system that can be easily modified to any number of special application robots. An "Android for Androids" if you will. And like Glass will speed up the development of the "AR/VR" scene, so too will a common, robust OS for robots speed up the development of automation.

That this is their goal seem pretty obvious to me. And in some ways, it might even be scary, because with this acceleration there will inevitably be repercussions, like a speed up in technological unemployment as both VR and robots enable humans to be replaced in the workforce with software run Avatars and robots.

But to be blunt, the faster Google can make it happen, the better off everyone will be. As I have said numerous times, the EoS has hit it's end of life. It's declining rapidly. The faster Google can accelerate a transition to a robotic workforce, the quicker it can automate production from the resource gathering stage to the final product delivery stage, the more speedily it can create "enhanced reality", the shallower the valley will be between the EoS and the EoA. And fortunately for us, the repressive, totalitarian tactics being used by the "Old Guard" of the EoS are just as harmful to Google's goals as they are to our liberty and freedom. Google isn't fighting against the FCC's proposed "fast lanes" because it supports net neutrality. It's doing it because it knows that the proposed rules are a desperate attempt by the teleco's to put a leash around Google's throat and bring it to heel.

So no, Google is not your friend. It's just that its own goals are best served by creating the environment that we transhumanists most desire to see develop. The enemy of my enemy isn't quite my friend... but it's also not the enemy.

Valkyrie Ice is a writer and futurist for Acceler8or.com and H+ magazine.



COMMENTS

I used to believe that an age of abundance would benefit everyone.  It might do so, if we stop the plutocrats from taking the abundance for themselves and leaving most people in abject poverty and ignorance. That’s the direction the US is going.

See http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/05/12-1 and
http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/are-charter-schools-in-new-orleans-the-2014-version-of-plantation-education.

I think there will always be scarcity. As some things that have been scarce become abundant (and therefore banal), our desires will move on and create demand for things - services, qualia, they can be as immaterial as you like - that are scarce. Then they in turn will become abundant, and our (perhaps enhanced) desires will move on again. At least that’s the good scenario; alternatively we’ll succumb to one or more of the existential risks we face.

That said, I think I broadly agree with Valkyrie re the difference between Google and toll operators.

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