I Am Google

I am Google

The title of this article must be outright flattering to its founders. Although one could replace Google with Firefox, Edge or any other search engine, you cannot pivot around the fact that people usually use Google to install these other search engines. That Google gracefully takes part in this process of knowingly potential business suicide says enough about its grandeur.

Google was founded 20 years ago when I was only 4 years old. The age at which a human being starts to form it’s early forms of consciousness. From the first moment I started using the internet, around the age of 8, Google was there. It has always been there, and mostly been benevolent, transparent, friendly and most importantly – extremely helpful.

Google, since I can remember, has been the most important tool to obtain information, that slowly matured into knowledge. Although this information was already out there in the world, Google was the mechanism that made sure this information hit my retina. Even at a very young age, I can remember I was sort of addicted to it. Although many people at the time went on to tell me that you “shouldn’t trust everything that you read on the internet”, and “Wikipedia was a distrustful source of knowledge” because everyone could edit it, I wasn’t so sure. Couldn’t I trust myself in discarding that what was absolute gibberish from that what was worthwhile? Of course, I couldn’t, I was 12, but at least I tried. And through learning how to use Google for basically everything,  I have come to see the transformation of the Internet, and that of Google.

The uncanny realisation is that, since I use Google for basically everything, Google also could in theory, or does basically, know everything about me.  Like the A.I. pictured in the 2013 movie Ex Machina, whose knowledge base and human understanding is based upon all the search inquiries made within the biggest search engine that exists within that world, I am basically Google.

Google is everywhere once you take into account the companies that they’ve bought throughout the last couple of years. Wikipedia tells us that since 2001, they have bought up to a whopping 189 companies, about 12.6 mergers a year. Companies that, once bought, help to strengthen Google’s position within the markets that they (want to) operate in. Online search, advertisement, online video’s, communication, social media and office environments are all fields they (want to) excel in. Not to mention all the moonshot companies Google owns, now operating under the name Alphabet.  Besides, the sheer realisation that the world is increasingly going mobile, and Google, together with Google Maps, is installed in millions of phones. When no encryption is involved, they could possibly know almost everything about your every move, presuming you extensively use your smartphone (something that most people seem to do).

Of course, almost all this data can be regarded as completely useless, since we lack the skills to usefully interpret or analyse it (yet). On top of that, there are way too many laws that protect people from such privacy infringement. But what if these laws change? What if the people’s opinion changes? What if our data mining and machine learning techniques advance dramatically? What if then, there is a extremely powerful company with lots of personal information, that gets (forced) into doing the wrong things?

One can only imagine, and Hollywood could probably write a successful dystopian sci-fi about it. For now, I’ll continue to love Google like I do. I do not care that Google in theory knows everything about me. Without Google, I wouldn’t be the knowledgeable person that I am today, and for that, I should thank them.

Author: Ruben Boyd

My name is Ruben Boyd, an aspiring science journalist and a graduate of the Cognitive Science Research track of the Artificial Intelligence Master at the VU - William James Graduate School. My roots lie in Psychology, and in 2014 I proudly obtained my Bachelor of Science at the VU Amsterdam.