Saturday, May 26, 2007

Questions, Questions

Eric Schmidt is quoted by the Financial Times (May 22, 2007):
"The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as 'What shall I do tomorrow?' and ‘What job shall I take?’ "
With something as outrageous as this, A-List bloggers such as BurningBird and Nicholas Carr hardly need to say anything themselves. They simply post the quote under a suitably provocative headline and get their readers to do the detailed commentary. Nice.

But what Schmidt actually said is clearly false, because Google users have always asked these questions. The problem has always been getting half-decent answers. Possibly Schmidt's real goal is that Google shall attempt to provide answers, or (even better) get some other company to pay for the opportunity. Or that Google shall influence the questions we choose to ask. Or even that we choose to channel every single question in our lives in Google's direction.

But it is interesting that Schmidt expresses his goal in this way, because it illustrates the way Google blurs the boundaries between itself and its users. In his own blog (Google is Me, The Joy of Personalization), someone called Maluke suggests that such blurring is commonplace.
"It's not specific to Google actually, it’s an instance of a common kind of delusions of grandeur for big software companies, media outlets etc."
This relates to an earlier discussion on Google and God from November 2003, where I wrote:

"Many believers say God is not sitting on a cloud somewhere, God is in ourselves, in our hearts. When Google is equated with God, we are supposed to interpret this equation as referencing not the Google software nor the Google company, but the Internet community as a whole - ourselves as Google users. And perhaps we geeks are supposed to be flattered by this."

A few short years later and the public mood about Google has certainly shifted hasn't it?

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