Yes, that is actually the first sentence of an article in the New York Times by Farhad Manjoo.
One way to think of Google is as an extremely helpful, all-knowing, hyper-intelligent executive assistant.
The first two paragraphs continue in much the same way ending with this sentence:
[Google’s] software will be available to help you look up any bit of idle curiosity or accomplish any task, anytime you desire.
I love how Manjoo implies the entire internet is simply GOOGLE. Wikipedia, Netflix, Amazon, news sites, blogs, travel sites, health care sites - these are all property of Google - because they’re on the internet. So when you go online to “accomplish any task, anytime you desire” it’s thanks to Google and no one else.
The Times presents this piece, which features parts of an interview with Google CEO Larry Page and top level exec Sundar Pichai, as an examination of potential PR trouble Google might run into as it continues to grow and amass more power. As I’ve said before, with a friend and business partner like the New York Times I don’t think they have much to worry about.
Manjoo carefully slants his words to favor his billionaire subject’s interests throughout. Like when he actually addresses what the article is supposed to be about, Google’s public image as it becomes the most powerful corporation in the world, he writes:
it risks becoming creepy instead of helpful
Risks becoming? Manjoo has already told us that Google is “extremely helpful.” Now he’s telling us that we don’t think Google is creepy. At least not yet. Clearly his job is to make sure we never do.
A little further on Manjoo writes:
Google has lately become a punching bag in what looks like an emerging resistance against the tech industry.
Looks like? Is that another way of saying “Isn’t actually?” Personally I did think there was an emerging resistance to companies like Google despite journalists like Farhad Manjoo's best efforts. But I guess I was wrong and in fact they are just extremely helpful, not creepy, and in no way am I resisting Manjoo's siren call.
After Manjoo mentions some of the things that only look like anti-corporate resistance and promotes a Google’s PR stunt aimed at mollifying the apparent protesters, Pichai is quoted saying how fucking happy and excited he is that people hate the company he works for. Page then cites Google’s Street View as an example of why they aren’t worried about consumer concerns:
“In the early days of Street View, this was a huge issue, but it’s not really a huge issue now,” Mr. Page said of the company’s project to send a fleet of cars across the globe to snap photographs of public roadways. “People understand it now and it’s very useful,” he said. “And it doesn’t really change your privacy that much. A lot of these things are like that.”
The only reason the public’s concerns about a corporation would cease is because the public was wrong to worry in the first place. Right? Unless…
As Page says, “A lot of things are like that.” Indeed!
I once had some kids on a user submitted content site try to bully me into giving their sites higher ratings. Their efforts included posting a picture of my house online with my name, address, phone number, and where I worked - all courtesy of Google. Among the many problems with this was that it wasn’t me. They had mistakenly identified my friend as being behind my anonymous account. His name, his address, his phone number, his job, and a picture of his house from Google Street View posted for hundreds of teens and 20-somethings who thought they hated him and wanted to do him harm to see. He laughed it off but when you think of his wife and young children who lived in that house and the hundreds of people who saw it online and you start calculating the odds that one of them may have psychopathic tendencies it seems less funny. In fairness to Larry though when he said it doesn’t change your privacy that much maybe he was simply referring to billionaires who can afford private security forces to police their estates.
After pretending to touch on the issue the piece was supposed to be about Manjoo goes into full-bore journalistic advertising mode:
Many of Google’s new services will improve how our computers work
Will they, Farhad? Or will they simply improve Google’s ability to gather our personal information?
“Or look at the unlocking that we showed,” Mr. Page said, referring to a system in which your computer detects that your watch is nearby, then lets you start using it without typing in a passcode. “It just makes a lot of sense,” Mr. Page said. “That’s a big hassle today.”
I think that’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard.
If these features sound small to you, it may be because Google is in the early stages of exploring the benefits we will get from combining many different devices into a single, hyperaware computing system
Or maybe it’s because Google knows what it wants, access to every conceivable bit of private information there is to collect about you, and is desperately trying to think up ways to trick you into giving it to them.
Is Google+ improving people’s lives? Or is Google just trying to cut into Facebook’s business?
When you made an account on Youtube before Google bought it the site would literally tell you not to use your real name under any circumstances. Now they more or less insist you do and that you give them your cell phone number as well. Because the largest data mining entity in the world having your cell phone number is a vital aspect of watching a fucking FLV video on your internet browser.
Do you really think that people were just overly paranoid and stupid when the internet was younger and caution regarding your personal info was Rule #1? Now, at a time when there’s threat of open revolt in America in reaction to government “snooping,” the attitude is put all your personal information online, on every site you visit. You don’t have to, because Google Analytics is going to track you anyway, but there’s no reason not to anymore. Somehow.
And gosh, just by a happy coincidence, Google makes their money by selling that information. Hmm. Funny how that has played out, isn’t it, Farhad?
To help prove Larry’s point I think I might try acting this out off line too. When I walk into a convenience store I’m going to announce my name and phone number to everyone there. I’m going to spray paint my home address on my car so everyone on the road knows where to find me if they need to get in touch. Next time I find myself in a job interview I’m going to tell them all my political views right off the bat. Followed by my religious beliefs and, well, my feelings on just about everything. Including what kind of videos I like to watch on Youtube! In fact I think I might just print all this information out beforehand to save time. Just attach it to my resume with a detailed index of everything I’ve ever said to anyone in my life.
What kind of asshole would object to Google profiting from that?
To make sure Mr. Page gets his Happy Ending Manjoo finishes by saying perhaps the most important aspect of Google’s limitless future potential is “only Google has Mr. Page — and he is completely undaunted by the resistance these technologies may engender.”
“For me, I’m so excited about the possibilities to improve things for people, my worry would be the opposite,” he said. “We get so worried about these things that we don’t get the benefits.”
Yeah. The world’s so much better than it was before Google, isn’t it? Americans are no longer criminally uninformed. Our country is well prepared for the effects of climate change. True democracy thrives across the globe. Inequality is on the decline. There is no one massive centralized advertising system that censors and controls the content on our free and open web. People are physically fit and have access to the very best health care regardless of their personal wealth. Hollywood is finally showcasing those with real talent who make true art. Civil and reproductive rights are as safe as ever. It’s Utopia, man.
All thanks to Larry Page.
And underpaid publicists like Farhad Manjoo.