FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Trip Inside Google

An invitation to visit Google’s headquarters and meet some of the people who made this ten year old giant that is giving Microsoft the nervies has to start with wonder.

The “campus” keeps spreading with the growth of Google into more and more fields, even though advertising revenue still comprises over 90 percent of its total revenues. The company wants to “change the world,” make all information digital and accessible through Google. Its company motto—is “Do No Evil,” which comes under increasing scrutiny, especially in the firm’s business with the national security state in Washington, D.C. and with the censors of Red China.

Google’s two founders out of Stanford graduate school—Sergey Brin and Larry Page—place the highest premium on hiring smart, motivated people who provide their own edge and work their own hours.

We were given “the tour” before entering a large space to be asked and answer questions before an audience of wunderkinds. E-mail traffic was monitored worldwide with a variety of electronic globes with various lights marking which countries were experiencing high or low traffic. Africa was the least lit. One of our photographers started to take a picture but was politely waved away with a few proprietary words. A new breed of trade secrets.

I noticed all the places where food—free and nutritious—was available. The guide said that food is no further than 150 feet from any workplace. “How can they keep their weight down with all these tempting repasts?” I asked.

“Wait,” he said, leading us toward a large room where an almost eerie silence surrounded dozens of exercising Googlelites going through their solitary motions at 3:45 in the afternoon.

“How many hours do they work?” one of my colleagues asked.

“We don’t really know. As long as they want to,” came the response.

In the amphitheatre, the director of communications and I started a Q and A, followed by more questions from the audience. It was followed by a YouTube interview. You can see both of them on: (Q&A) and (Interview).

Google is a gigantic information means, bedecked with ever complex software, to what end? Information ideally leads to knowledge, then to judgment, then to wisdom and then to some action. As the ancient Chinese proverb succinctly put it—“To know and not to do is not to know.”

But what happens when a company is riding an ever rising crest of digitized information avalanches without being able to catch its breath and ask, “information for what?” I commented that we have had more information available in the last twenty five years, though our country and world seem to be getting worse overall; measured by indicators of the human condition. With information being the “currency of democracy,” conditions should be improving across the board.

“Knowledge for what?” I asked.

Well, for starters, Google is trying to figure out how to put on its own Presidential debates, starting with one in New Orleans in the autumn. Certainly it can deliver an internet audience of considerable size. But will the major candidates balk if there are other candidates meeting criteria such as a majority of Americans wanting them to participate?

The present Commission on Presidential Debates is a private nonprofit corporation created and controlled by the Republican and Democratic Parties. They do not want other seats on the stage and the television networks follow along with this exclusionary format.

Google, with its own Foundation looking for creative applications that produce results for the well-being of people, should hold regular public hearings on the ground around the country for ideas. They may be surprised by what people propose.

In any event, the examples of knowing but not doing are everywhere. More people succumbed to tuberculosis in the world last year than ten years ago. Medical scientists learned how to treat TB nearly fifty years ago. Knowledge alone is not enough.

For years the technology to present the up-to-date voting record of each member of Congress has been available. Yet only about a dozen legislators do so, led by Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Chris Shays (R-CT). Recalcitrant power blocks what people most want directly from their lawmakers’ website. Here Google can make the difference with Capitol Hill, if it wants to connect information technology to informed voters.

When the internet began, some of us thought that it would make it easy and cheap for people to band together for bargaining and lobbying as consumers. At last, the big banks, insurance companies, credit card companies, automobile firms and so forth would have organized countervailing consumer power with millions of members and ample full time staffs. It has not happened.

Clearly technology and information by themselves do not produce beneficial change. That depends on how decentralized political, economic and social power is exercised in a corporate society where the few decide for the many.

I left Google hoping for a more extensive follow-up conversation, grounded in Marcus Cicero’s assertion, over 2000 years ago, that “Freedom is participation in power.” That is what connects knowledge to beneficial action, if people have that freedom.

I hope my discussions with the Google staff produced some food for thought that percolates up the organization to Google’s leaders.

RALPH NADER is running for president as an independent.

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail