Chapter 3 of George Gilder’s book Life After Google (2018) digs down into the roots of the hubristic decision by Google’s executives to plunge into profound issues of philosophy and neuroscience. His previous chapter points out the limitations of math and computer science in reflecting true reality and actual human interaction. Google’s system of the world is all about search. Search begins with a “mirror world” (an authentic model of the available universe). Google sought to render the entire world into a corpus of accessible information, a gigantic searchable virtual reality database.
And they did it! Gilder writes:
Google digitized nearly all of the available books in the world (2005), the entire tapestry of the world’s languages and translations (2010), the topography of the planet (Google Maps and Google Earth (2007), down to the surfaces and structures on individual streets (StreetView) and their traffic (Waze, 2016). It digitized even the physiognomies of the world’s faces in its digital facial recognition software (2006, now upgraded massively and part of Google Photos). With the capture of YouTube in 2006, Google commanded an explosively expanding digital rendition of much of the world’s imagery, music, and talk.
Google is an incredibly powerful new technology. Access to so much information is valuable and desirable. And how does Google make money from their innovation? – by offering if for free – only charging advertisers. Free is good, right? What’s wrong with free? As we shall see in the coming weeks……everything.
Not only is “free” a lie, a zero price implies a return to the barter system of human exchanges that we left in the Stone Age. You pay Google not with your money but with your attention, above all, with your time. As Gilder puts it:
Time is what money measures and represents – what remains scarce when all else becomes abundant in the “zero marginal cost” economy [he’s referencing a 2015 book by Jeremy Rifkin]. Money signals the real scarcities of the world concealed in the false infinites of free. [Google is a] “Free World”, and it is reaching past your wallet, spurning your earned money, to seize your time – which is actually your life.
Next week, we get to the other problem of “free”. It ignores the challenges of security. Who wants to steal free stuff? Our Estate Planning War Chest contains wealth and valuable knowledge – your time and attention are not free – they must be tightly secured to prevent theft.