What is Google Up To?
Google has been on a buying spree lately, snapping up other companies left and right. But the acquisitions are not what you might expect; not smartphone makers, Web services, ad networks, or search-related software developers. No, Google is investing in artificial intelligence, robots, and smart gadgets for the home. Here's some speculation about how all those things might fit together...
Is Resistance Futile?
On January 26, 2014, Google announced plans to buy Deepmind, a quiet little British startup that combines machine learning and system neuroscience to produce a powerful general-purpose learning machine. The price was not disclosed but rumors put it in the mid hundred-millions range.
Shortly before buying Deepmind, Google stunned the world by paying $3.2 billion in cash for home-automation device maker Nest Labs, whose best-known product is a thermostat.
And that’s not all; Google also recently purchased another AI startup called DNNresearch, and a handful of small robotics researchers. What is The Goog after with all of these purchases?
Some think it’s Amazon that Google’s after. The search giant seems to be working hard and systematically on its shopping service for both consumers and retailers. The robotics firms might be bringing to Google new talent who will develop a robot that jumps out of a driverless Google car and races to drop a package on your doorstep. Google's fleet of self-driving cars has already driven 500,000 accident-free miles, so why not create a robotic alternative to FedEx, UPS or the postal service?
It sounds futuristic, but is it any more far-fetched than Amazon's idea of delivering packages via helicopter drones?
What about the thermostats, and the smart smoke alarms that Nest recently added to its product line? Speculation is that Google is trying to infiltrate every aspect of our lives with devices that are aware of us and what we are doing, and capable of sending their observations back to Google via the same Internet that makes them so smart and convenient for us. Why would Google want to out-spy the NSA?
Targeted advertising is still Google’s biggest money maker, by far. The better its dossier on you, the more it has to sell to marketers. Did your Nest smoke alarm recently detect burning food? Time to send you ads for pizza delivery, cooking school, or fire extinguishers. Or was it a major fire that required emergency responders? Time for ads about home improvement and remodeling, furniture, clothing, and lawyers who deal with insurance companies.
Will You Be Assimilated?
The AI software ties together all of the pieces of Google’s grand plan. A new kind of search algorithm is needed to make subtle, human-like inferences from the many disparate sources of data that Google is collecting on millions of people. This new software is so complicated that human programmers cannot maintain it, let alone improve it. It has to be able to learn from experience and refine its own artificial judgment – like a human being.
This vision of a Google-branded HAL 9000 or Skynet scares some people. Others trust in Google’s beneficence. After all, the company’s motto is still “Don’t Be Evil,” right?
What do you think Google is up to with all of these acquisitions? Does its relentless pursuit of personal data worry you? Are you doing anything to keep Google at bay, or being happily assimilated by the Borg? Your thoughts and comments are welcome, as usual.
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 7 Feb 2014
|For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.|
How SMART is Your Hard Drive?
The Top Twenty
Demystifying the Backup
Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions
Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter
Copyright © 2005
- Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Article information: AskBobRankin -- What is Google Up To? (Posted: 7 Feb 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved