Do you remember when you completely trusted Google? When they could do no wrong and were greatly contributing to paving the path to the future. I remember those days. But in the last few years their image seems to be changing from innovation to power (or at the very least flirting between the two).
Google has not done anything in particular to betray their users but they certainly know a lot about each and every one of us. They know our search habits, what kind of emails we get, and the websites that we frequent. In the SEO world they throw their weight around (because they can) and are forcing Google+ down our throats.
If you are extremely connected to the web, then Google probably knows your social circles, your fantasies, your vices, and probably a lot about your personal belongings.
Late last year Google acquired Boston Dynamics, whose tagline is “Changing Your Idea of What Robots Can Do.” Although they are an amazing company that is covering a lot of ground in the future of robotics, a quick YouTube search of “Boston Dynamics” will produce a slew of videos containing real life, fully functioning nightmares (seriously though, if this isn’t Skynet I don’t know what is, they’re even playing ominous, Terminator-esque music). And most recently, Google acquired Nest—a smart and stylish thermostat that “talks” to your home.
On one hand it’s nice to see a big company like Google supporting high level innovation like Boston Dynamics and Nest, but on the other hand what does Google want to do with fully functional walking robots and information from our physical homes? What’s even more frightening to think about is that the Google co-founder Sergey Brin has a close relationship (albeit not as close as it once was) with 23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki, which is a service that analyzes a blood sample that tells you about your heritage and potential health risks.
So let’s take a step back here. Google sees and documents a majority of your online life (which these days is a majority of your actual life), is highly interested in making fully functional robots (according to this Wikipedia list of Google mergers and acquisitions, they bought six robotic companies in early December 2013, six!), through Nest they potentially have information about your physical home, and with 23andMe (please note there is no official partnership but 23andMe received a lot of capital from Google to get the company going) Google potentially has your heritage line as well as potential health risks (imagine how valuable that information would be to medical insurance companies).
All that needs to happen now is Google starts making artificially intelligent robots who become self aware and said robots will know all of our habits and where we like to hang out and what kind of homes we live in, as well as what our heritage and biological weaknesses are and – BOOM – just like that, Terminator is no longer just a movie. Calm down, at least it won’t happen in our life time (famous last words).
I know the most powerful retort to these observations: they are just observations. And that is correct. And in all honesty, I will continue to use Google every single day and I might even sign up for 23andMe (I mean, come on, it’s awesome!). One day down the line when I own a house of my own, I will probably want to have a Nest thermostat in it (unless there is a better looking thermostat that comes out between now and then). I just so happen to work in SEO, so I read a lot about Google and I’m a huge Terminator fan so it’s fun to make connections. But are all of these things just coincidence? Or is Google legitimately becoming Skynet?