“Knowledge in the form of an informational commodity indispensable to productive power is already, and will continue to be, a major –perhaps the major –stake in the worldwide competition for power. It is conceivable that the nation-states will one day fight for control of information, just as they battled in the past for control over territory, and afterwards for control over access to and exploitation of raw materials and cheap labor.”
— Philosopher, Jean-François Lyotard, Author of The Postmodern Condition
Everyone’s been spending a lot of time debating whether Google+ is out for Facebook or Twitter and if they will be successful or not. After playing with the tool and pulling back to take a look at the big picture, I’m more of a mind to believe Google’s target is something a bit more ambitious — total information domination.
Vincent Wong’s SlideShare called “What g+ is really all about,” eludes to the kind of power potential Google is positioning itself for and who may need to watch out (HINT: It’s NOT Facebook or Twitter.)
But as I mentally digested what Wong’s theory had put forth, I remembered something else — a TED Talk I’d seen with Eli Pariser back in May and it all seemed a bit clearer to me — well, clearer and scarier, especially when you take into consideration what Google already has their hands in.
When I look at Google’s big picture, it appears to be a bid for total data stream takeover. One that could actually work, if folks take to the idea of migrating to Google+, lured in by the ability to easily segregate and control your own information output (see circles). Because of it’s ease of use and all-in-one approach, it sets up a situation wherein you could conceivably never have to leave Google to do what you want on the internet. In some respects this may sound like a dream — everything you need all in one. Isn’t this what we’ve all been clamoring for? Ease of use, social integration, email, text, search, mobile, news, maps and purchases all in one handy location?
So, Why do I Feel like We’re All Walking into a Trap?
Because I’m leery of a world brought to you by Google.
Now some may say, “but Google’s a great company,” and by the looks of their customer and employee satisfaction ratings — they are. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy and regularly use Google, because I do. Nor am I saying that Google has some darkly nefarious reasons for their new strategies (at least not yet).
But I do believe they are a company that, like any other, is looking out for their own best interests (growth, greater profits, etc.) and they just so happen to do it in a way that gives us all just what we want, when we want it. Which is a brilliant market strategy and a surefire formula for success, which is exactly why Google is in the prime position they are in — user goodwill.
But the reason I am leery, comes back to Mr. Pariser’s very enlightening talk, which centered on the potentially devastating socio-political consequences of what he calls “filter bubbles.”
“Knowledge is Power,”
— Philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon, Viscount Saint Alban, Meditationes Sacrae
If Google+ takes off (as it is predicted to), it will be positioned to be the ultimate information gatekeeper (more so than it already is) — the King of all filter bubbles. This could mean Google would have control over the kind of information and content you get to see, hear and know about, with a near absolute authority — and that’s a bit scary. I know I don’t want to live in a “bubble,” where I don’t have access to different information streams and ideas outside those I already hold.
That’s the way we, as human beings grow, the way solutions or compromises come about and the greatest way for new ideas to flourish and be birthed — by the free flow of information. That’s what the internet itself has fostered, a space where you can learn anything you want, exchange opinions and ideas with people halfway around the globe — a place where everyone can have an equal chance regardless of race, sexuality, gender, income or class to learn and grow and be discovered.
But this free world is being claimed — bit by bit, the fences are going up. Just like they did in radio and television and in cable and in telephony. The way they are in government. Monopolies are being created, Kings are being anointed and strategies are being employed to keep people within the confines of the walls.
All it will take is for human nature to take over (greed, power). Now, I won’t go as conspiracy theory as some about Google’s intentions and aspirations in the world of information but I will say this — absolute power corrupts absolutely. And just because Google builds it, doesn’t mean that they’ll be the ones who ultimately control it — buy-outs and mergers happen every day.
So no matter how cool or benevolent or brilliant you think the guys over at Google are—it’s never a bad idea to keep your eye on the bubble.
UPDATE: Google just added one more squadron to it’s army — Google Buys Motorola