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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Monday, June 4, 2007

Google is not merely moving towards "owning" the internet, its also beginning to "own" me.I had a friend over this weekend, and I was setting up a blog for her on Blogger. I had to sign out of my Blogger account to set her up. During the process, I wanted to check my mail, and clicked on my Gmail tab in my browser - and I was shocked to see that it opened up her Gmail account instead. Should have expected it - its logical - but it disturbed me. It's convenient, it's quick - but I want the controls and the ability to decide which ones I want auto signins for and which ones not.

Say, if I have Google Reader running - and I have signed out of Gmail -- if someone else tries to log into their Gmail account - they can read my mail. Or if they want to check their scraps on Orkut - they get to see mine instead. Google Maps can show pictures of your front door and look through your window - very cool - yes - but it makes me uncomfortable too. Although I need not worry as I live in a city where its going to be very difficult to get everything 'on a map' as there is so much chaos in the planning.
They have my presence info (limited tho) through Gmail and Gtalk, they have my social network on Orkut, they dish up ads in my Gmail which make me feel a little uneasy about privacy. I have been doing many studies recently with youth, and when I ask them how they use the internet - the response is Googling, Orkutting (note - not search and social networking) and chatting - Gtalk hasn't yet managed to become a verb!

In countries like India however, where for the large part, computers are shared at work and home - this could become a problem. Not everyone has the know-how or the presence of mind to set up different logins and user accounts at boot up.

Look at Google's acquisition over the years - they are buying up the best really. And our lives are enriched and simpler as a result. I love using many of these and it makes my life better. But yesterday's experience with setting up my friend's blog got me thinking in the longer term - and I kept pondering over - what cost?

Eric Schmidt , Google's CEO was quoted in FT. Do I really want my computer to tell me what I should do tomorrow, or what job I should take?

Asked how Google might look in five years' time, Mr Schmidt said: "We are very early in the total information we have within Google. The algorithms will get better and we will get better at personalisation.
The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as 'What shall I do tomorrow?' and 'What job shall I take?'"

See this video, although a little dated - it looks forward to a Google world in 2014 - EPIC. Robin Good has a transcript:

"On Sunday, March 9 2014, Googlezon unleashes EPIC.

Welcome to our world.

The 'Evolving Personalized Information Construct' is the system by which our sprawling, chaotic mediascape is filtered, ordered and delivered. Everyone contributes now - from blog entries, to phone-cam images, to video reports, to full investigations. Many people get paid too - a tiny cut of Googlezon's immense advertising revenue, proportional to the popularity of their contributions.

EPIC produces a custom contents package for each user, using his choices, his consumption habits, his interests, his demographics, his social network - to shape the product. A new generation of freelance editors has sprung up, people who sell their ability to connect, filter and prioritize the contents of EPIC.

We all subscribe to many Editors; EPIC allows us to mix and match their choices however we like. At its best, edited for the savviest readers, EPIC is a summary of the world - deeper, broader and more nuanced than anything ever available before."

With the recent acquisition of Feedburner, Google just bought over access to not just us, but our readers as well. They even acquire the internet in year 2017!!

Google has my past, and it's rapidly 'taking over' my future. My actions today, in the present, are building the tracks for that future. A dystopian Brave New World, or Utopia?

Should I really care? Does it bother you at all?

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