Saturday, November 17, 2007


When Google

enables everything I blog, and knows every blog I regularly read,

and is the substrate of my email, docs, photos, groups, blog searches, videos, appointments, news interests, books, map queries, purchases, finances, scholarly research, web searches, mobile platform, ad sensing, and

soon my wireless provider

and for $999 my Genome reader,

spidering the text of my DNA and relating it to ancestors, physicians, populations, datasets, marketers, political strategists and advertisers across Google Earth

and under Google Sky

I should probably be anticipating a few questions, like, which is trending toward greater ontological heft: me or GoogleMe, and which will command a higher price?

And if not yet I, my kids will need to know:

Should they love Google?

Ought they pray to it?



Foolishly seek to hide?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm not sure if you listed, but Google also has all your phone numbers stored in

11/18/2007 8:30 AM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

That's one I'd not seen - thank you. Can't wait to see what else slouches towards Mountain View.

11/18/2007 8:56 AM  
Blogger Juke said...

Nice (unattributed) whale, there.

11/18/2007 5:39 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Point taken.

11/18/2007 5:57 PM  
Blogger Mike Golby said...

Your post's at 12 on Google, Tom. Quite few GoogleMes out there. Maybe that link will boost it.

Damn, I've written screeds but junked it. Seldom has a post made me think as much. "Indifference" remains my response to Google, but we'd have to spend an hour or two chewing the fat for me to be able to communicate to you my reasons for feeling that way. Perhaps the best way I could put it would be to state that while I'm no Solipsist, my indifference to Google is of a benign Solipsist nature.

Hmm... it'd be something really worth chatting about...

11/19/2007 12:06 PM  
Blogger Mike Golby said...

The above leads to a power relation in which I hold sway. I can pull the plug on Google (literally and metaphorically, but only to a degree), but it's increasingly unable to pull the plug on me. My ideas kind of lead off from there...

I'll go now. Thanks for your ever thought-provoking musings...

11/19/2007 12:21 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

I'd welcome your further ruminations Mike. It's not even so much that I do not trust Google, as that the density and scope of its knowledge of us - any of us - begins to seem like an affront to what's within human limits. An improper purview if I ever saw one!

11/19/2007 2:29 PM  
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11/20/2007 8:53 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

I'd advise them to hide. Google's not finished organizing all the world's info yet, and that's the core problem. They're giving everyone the tools to help those everyones think that they are organizing their won information, but Google does and will have it. The next steps to where you are pointing are not really long strides.

There's a very good reason why they chose "Don't be evil" (memory not so good, was that it ?) as the corporate slogan or motto or whatever. I strongly suspect that reason was to begin the inoculation .. the correct intent may have been there, but with that intent and the nature of the applications the founders and strategists could glimpse the typing on the walls of the databases.

11/22/2007 9:15 AM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

I think it was "do no evil" - and you're exactly right, each of us is singularly empowered, but the totality of that is the sort of godlike coign of vantage that begins to think it knows all, including the future.

11/22/2007 9:58 AM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Correction: You remembered it correctly, Jon, according to this, which calls it the company's "informal corporate motto." Nothing the lawyers need to get behind, I suppose.

11/22/2007 10:03 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

I think that in a real sense, Google's and our collective future is virtual, only partly "real".

I am more inclined to believe that our collective future is as Leonard Cohen has envisioned it.

11/22/2007 12:33 PM  
Blogger Mike Golby said...

Harumphhh! You paranoid North Americans are weird. My dearly departed father greatly favoured the notion we have way too much information, far too little knowledge, and bugger all wisdom. He delighted in the thought of data as a from of informational building block, an artificial, inanimate molecule of information of use only when joined to finite other molecules to give structure to a piece of information. He appeared to toss random probability into the data mix or set and delighted in man's seeming inability to control, exploit, or derive meaning or knowledge from that data pool. The more data, it seemed to him, the greater the chance of ignorance. I share his view. Google flogs stuff. Rather like the chap who lived next door to my parents for several years, it facilitates the exchange of information and, yes, stuff. "How does the oily fool do it?" my old man would ask of the slimeball next door. "He's dumb and does nothing, but he has far too much money for his own good." "He's a dealmaker," I advised him of his neighbour, a former politician with each of his fingers in many pies. "He speaks to people, greases palms, and speeds the wheels of others' lack of industry." My old man could never get it. A scientist, such communicative facility was beyond him. He disliked the man intensely -- representing, as he did, a wealth of information governed by little knowledge and no wisdom, and was delighted when the former politician -- amid allegations of dishonesty, thievery, and other untoward activities, was hounded from the area by others of like nature but not the same neighbourhood. Google's losing people's mail. A couple of bought so-called Web services are suffering a lack of care. It seems the backend is sliding out and our favourite search engine might one day be seen for what it has always been, i.e. a nine-day wonder. The nut of it is that the data has always been there. Google makes us uncomfortably aware that it is there. We'd rather forget these things. They might tell us something of ourselves. Given our blindness from such great height (our could-be coign of vantage), Google has a long way to go and much wheeling and dealing to do before it garners any information, much less knowledge, it can put to effective (if not good) use. The old song remains the same. Google does nothing. It is nothing. Information is where it has always been, i.e. in the hands of other people, who tend to be predictable. They are hell and they will exploit our addiction to stuff, as they have done for aeons. They might even book us rendition flights (we have all read and remember The Trial, which so exquisitely brings our and others' little authoritarians to consciousness and light), but I doubt it. That sort of shit, even in the best books, happens only to the innocent and we can hardly be accused of that. Although... Even should, somehow and God forbid, this nebulous entity named Google find a means of wielding its datasets to bad ends, so what? All we'd experience is the new now, which can hardly be worse than this one, can it? Kafka and Orwell wrote the same world as the Scribes of Old and Revered Scripts remind us only that little, if anything, has changed. We're still as fearful as all hell and our gods remain as wrathful, faceless, and bent as ever. It's all true, I'll grant you that; but it's also all a load of piffle; all at the same time. We're pillocks to lend such codswallop authority over us. I think my father died content, a wise and serene man at 78. As far as I could make out, the stuff of this world was all Gog and Magog to him...and it always will be to me. In my grander scheme of things, Google's pretty good as a search engine, but as a god or ogre I have it in me so much closer to home to scare myself with my own desert spaces (or, given a memory like Jon's, whatever it was old Frost said). Fortunately, I too am but a search engine, though not of the Googleague. From a vantage point lowly placed I can appreciate the wisdom of the imbecile, i.e. “The intelligentsia are so full of shit. We all love NASCAR in a way. Besides, my grandchildren will have far bigger fish and demons to face and fry than some gonky company apparently coign-ing it from Mountain View, CA.”

Afterthought: I realise this borders of the "Everything is nothing and nothing is everything" strain of thought (is there a name for that?), but it is such a fundamental part of me I cannot divorce myself from it. Also, and as you guys know, I am as passionate about these minor injustices, e.g. misuse of information, torture, war, etc. as you. We live on many levels, but I think -- in this instance -- we're elevating Google way above its station. Heh...that last could start a whole new meme stream. OK, back to "Harumphhh!"

11/22/2007 2:15 PM  
Blogger Mike Golby said...

We're pondering this at the same time, Jon, and appear -- in our own ways -- to be of like mind. Cohen's vision of the future is so sharp because he sees our past so clearly. We'll get all that shit back, with interest. But Google hasn't much to do with it -- we do.

11/22/2007 2:22 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

Mike .. your Pa was right.

One of the key (or maybe the only ?) reasons we are even on this jeezly thing is that it's so hard to find people to actually talk to in the 'hood ... they're all too busy working, or if not working, too poor to go out and meet others.

Where's Charles Bukowski when you need him ? Oh, wait, he's over there at Y Blog ZA, or popping his head out of the window at rageboy,com. Even when it's serious it's entertainment now.

11/22/2007 6:24 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

We'll get all that shit back, with interest. But Google hasn't much to do with it -- we do.

I think you're right, too. Must run in the family ;-)

Thanks, Mike .. you brought some colour and thought to my day.

11/22/2007 6:27 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

Oh, and one last thing. Even though I think you are right and that seems to contradict my minor screed up above, I'm still vaguely scared of Google.

Not because of it's management's intentions or lack thereof, but because of exactly the point you make ... because of "us", namely the "us" that permits our societies to be run the way they are increasingly being managed.

That "us" is very likely to be able to use Google in ways we can only imagine at some point in the future, knowingly or not. they've already rendered these little snippets of text we know as 'ads" as an ubiquitous part of our mental landscapes, so ubiquitous that we don't even notice them. Why they're even on this blog ! Will it be figurative or literal when we start thinking of text ads as tattooed on the inside walls of our craniums ?

I dunno, you may.

11/22/2007 6:32 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Mike, I like your story - your dad vs the flogger, a man of science vs the facile vocalist. It's not Google the flogger. The ads might very well be just a scam of advertising on advertisers, a scam on their dimwittedness that yields us utility.

It's Google the knower, the science, the backbone, the map and path, the facile architect, the invisible servant, the ghost/machine that you might consider. As Chris Locke suggested ("If you asked me could I live without it, the answer would be no. Wouldn't be life as I know it today, anyway") the change has been radical. We've barely seen the incipit, I'll wager. More on the way.

11/22/2007 11:04 PM  
Blogger Juke said...

Plaxo don't care -- because

11/22/2007 11:55 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

don't want program x, y, z to start
for plaxo . ( 0.13 seconds) All they care
- Plaxo had this too, and were
PR scam. Take a look at the chart

have a happy and So the second part
- If they don't really care
at �theories� - look at what the kids are
your friends will love you when they start

gonna throw a party tomorrow (Friday
gave in and signed I don�t need it as far
- Never heard of it and

person who sent me this alert? you may
I�d love to sync my Google Calendar
- Plaxo had this too, and

or not

11/23/2007 12:40 AM  
Blogger Mike Golby said...

Tom, your post made me reflect on discernment, definition, and "what is real and what is not" in a manner mindful of the care with which you use words. The first two fit the bill. I'll elaborate, but first, a couple of further thoughts. Chris's suggestion jarred, i.e. my spontaneous response was "WTF? Beyond the obvious, temporary discomfort and sense of dislocation, why?" Jon's introduction of "The Future" affirmed many of my sentiments. Two different reactions to two similar responses to Google's power. Why? It boils down to discernment and definition.

Last night I listened to some pretty good music by a band called Explosions in the Sky. It's an emo rock band and they play taut, tight, jazzy, rock. The kids find this stuff all over the place, but I find it difficult to lock into their musical network.

Looking at my musical stalwarts, I'm not surprised. I've defined myself and have been defined by the music I've listened to most of my life; good ol' rock, jazz, and blues that was around when I was suited to musical definition. I'm not averse to change but, back then, I categorized myself in a certain, uncritical way and anything new tends to be a variation on my existing notion of theme or musical narrative, i.e. what I like and don't like.

That past reality -- in its own way relived and immortal -- exists only for me. Today, kids face a reality whereby much of their life's narratives and realities are defined (unconsciously, subconsciously, consciously) using tools such as Google and YouTube.

Discernment's important here because, when and as I chose to define myself, there were other Googles about. The Berlin Wall, a real construct that needlessly took the life of MarekJ's unknown friend Chris Gueffroy and defined or reinforced Marek’s views, delineated a world so suffused with Baby Boom crock I could not resist it all. I was skeptical, but only sometimes soundly critical (in a good sense). I swallowed the fire on the moon bullshit. During my teens, I swallowed a lot of Zionist bullshit. I accepted and benefited from apartheid while disagreeing with it fundamentally.

My world was so "full of it" I could not avoid it.

Stalin was the Great and Good Leader of our day (piles of bones attest to this) and St.Paul... well, depending on how we viewed or interpreted St. Paul, he gave us every reason to avoid reason. Today, I am far better suited to an AKMA-like critical appreciation of ol' Paul but, back then and for me, his message could be massaged any which way (as it can be today by millions).

A couple of years ago, Tutor pointed out that, with the fall of the Wall, communism and democracy came tumbling down. Such an observation takes true discernment. I'll never not admire the man for that little insight. With it came the realisation of the interregnum; the Chris "Wouldn't be life as I know it" Locke moment. We went through a wobbly patch we created for ourselves; a moment of uncertainty.

Recreating yesteryear, the Russians were faster out of the blocks than the West. They gave themselves Yeltsin and the oligarchs in the 90s. The West has Bush and his buddies only today but, with Google, we're quickly catching on to new ways of redefining our old narratives in exactly the same way as we did back then, be it during the time of St. Paul, Stalin, or the Berlin Wall.

As Cohen seems to ask, "Is it not always their time? Are we not always in need of them?" And he appears satisfied we'll keep them going a long time. "I have seen the future -- it is murder."

So are the constructs through which I unthinkingly defined myself real or unreal? Did I take in and shape the defining events of my time or were they broadcast to me in a primitive form of our now-finessed Gatling-gun use and abuse of broadcast media? WWII was justifiable, Vietnam was not. Who told me that? Were they real or were only the deeds and the dead for real?

Today, the horror of war troubles me more and less. More because it is a ubiquitous and accepted form of conversation and less because that which war signifies increasingly concerns and seizes my heightened critical facilities.

This is getting lengthy...:) Am I divorcing myself from reality by considering the signified as more important than the signifier? I don't know. Were the Berlin Wall, Stalin, and St. Paul ever really real? Google has the floor today. It aids all those not busy being born to define themselves without the need for discernment. It enables rendition, deportation, detention, torture, and death.

Its injunction (whoever coined that motto certainly made sure the finger pointed outwards) allows us to suspend reason, to believe that "No, of course we won't be evil." It reads like Department of Defense. Ho ho. Google gives us our realities a la Encyclopaedia Britannica but, through Wikipedia, as we'd like to read and think them. It fosters community, generates art and poetry, charts our universe, i.e. all that you've pointed out.

But only in as much as we'd have it do so.

If we're able to discern this, does it really matter? And given that it lacks the physical participation and ritual needed to lend substance to social conventions such as religion, war, and dictatorship, is it really real? How far towards real is it getting? Murder seems to enjoy as much currency as ever, but how much of it can we ascribe to our new Stalin? Where does definition start? I'd suggest it gestates in our being the type of animals we are and manifests through the way we organize ourselves.

Google epitomises a genetically hard-wired neo-liberal capitalism rampant. Is it inescapable? Yes, but we don't have to be suckered or live by it. Anarchism is alive and well and living in many of us. Paradoxically, capitalism (like any other social, political, or economic philosophy) is perhaps anarchy realised; a piss-poor result of our freedom to self-organize.

I guess the gist of this screed is that while I respect Google's power, I don't fear it. The most it (or anything real or virtual related to it) can do to us is kill us. And if we're going to live in fear of that inevitability (the future or murder by another name), we might as well cut right to the chase, leave our virtual realities behind, and run -- knowing full well that we cannot hide.

Everything passes.

PS: Am I missing something here? I'm devoting inordinate time to questioning myself on this one.

11/23/2007 4:59 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Mike, I loved the ramble - thank you. I also love Google -- a certain Google, anyway, the one I envision, antidemonically, when they do certain things that seem very fine. And they did seem anarchs, before the IPO. Anyway, I have qualms.

11/26/2007 8:36 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Google is preparing a service that would let users store on its computers essentially all of the files they might keep on their personal-computer hard drives -- such as word-processing documents, digital music, video clips and images, say people familiar with the matter. The service could let users access their files via the Internet from different computers and mobile devices when they sign on with a password, and share them online with friends. It could be released as early as a few months from now, one of the people said. WSJ

11/27/2007 10:26 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

I thought I had posted this before, but evidently not.

Google epitomises a genetically hard-wired neo-liberal capitalism rampant. Is it inescapable? Yes, but we don't have to be suckered or live by it. Anarchism is alive and well and living in many of us. Paradoxically, capitalism (like any other social, political, or economic philosophy) is perhaps anarchy realised; a piss-poor result of our freedom to self-organize.

I guess the gist of this screed is that while I respect Google's power, I don't fear it. The most it (or anything real or virtual related to it) can do to us is kill us. And if we're going to live in fear of that inevitability (the future or murder by another name), we might as well cut right to the chase, leave our virtual realities behind, and run -- knowing full well that we cannot hide.

Everything passes.

I am your fan boy.

That said, like Tom I have qualms .. not necessarily about Google the company but about the role the capabilities it demonstrates may play in the future of humans, somewhere somehow.

I have long been deeply affected by the concepts outlined in the book Mediated by Thomas de Zengotita, and I don't think things will get better for us in terms of how to experience (or not) reality. Capturing, organizing and storing millions of humans personal information helps us ... yes it can ... make meaning with each other, but it still makes me vaguely nervous that some entity has a bottleneck-like grasp on that much potential power.

11/27/2007 11:10 AM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Jon, I hadn't thought of de Zeng in this regard, but I will now. tks.

11/27/2007 12:43 PM  
Blogger Mike Golby said...

I went for a walk at Cape Point this past weekend and almost came to grief twice; but it was worth it. It's the wildest, most isolated coast I know -- and it's within sight of Cape Town, albeit from 3,000 feet. My point is that I've more qualms about the effect of winter's rain on the summer cliff-top paths circling my world than of that which Google might do with the data at its disposal.

My paths (they're not demarcated by the Parks Board) serve as personal borders, or frontiers, so to speak. In a sense, I enjoy living dangerously; as long as I can get back home for tea. That said, while I pay Google little heed and feel we risk lending undue weight to De Zengotita's message (again, "what is real and what is not" and to what extent does it shape us), I do appreciate and am struggling to deal with your fears of digital media's stranglehold on our little freedoms (paradoxically most often media created).

I might have some idea why I believe it overrated. I, like you guys, have been following the currency markets in the wake of the predicted sub-prime train smash. In fact, Iran's oil bourse really piqued my interest because it indicated movement had already taken place. Today, I turn more readily to golf. If you really want to know what's going on in the world, read Golfer's Digest or whatever it is those guys with the abysmal taste in clothing read.

I was reading of local hero, Retief "The Goose" Goosen. "The following year, however, the Goose surged 28 places to finish the European season in a career-best 5th position. With the official currency of the tour changing, he broke the 1-million euro barrier."

That was way back in 1998. It waren't Dubya's doing. It's global. Where, several years ago, the Sun City Million Dollar Challenge was the richest local sporting event, a local website now tells me: "In just two months' time golfers from across the world will converge on the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club for a chance to win over a million euros and a place in the European Tour."

There are signs of it all over the place. The euro's usurped the dollar as the reserve currency of choice. The United States is heading for a fiscal beating of unimaginable proportions. The far-sighted are dusting off their dancing shoes and getting ready for the marathons to come. But guess what? The rich couldn't give a damn. They're safe. The Pentagon's briefing suppliers and interested parties in its plans for the future. My old buddy Thomas PM Barnett's wet dreams are being realized. The Long War is to be fought against the poor and Iraq and, more important, Sudan, are serving as test beds for our global slums. You guys are heading deep into the bowels of Gotham City and, for the rest of us it's a mix of Judge Dredd and a Monsanto-modified clockwork orange.

I heard a home-loan advert from one of our large financial institutions on Cape Talk this morning. A little girl asked her Daddy to tell her a story. He did. The three little pigs were able to buy themselves a face-brick house fully fortified with electric fencing, motion sensors, CCTV, and armed response. South African business knows what its market wants. Gated communities have been given the go-ahead by the Cape Town City Council. What of those on the outside? Like Tom Barnett says: "Shrink the Gap."

But screw him. I remember being really taken with Leon Uris's stories (probably Mila 18 and Armageddon) when I was a teenager. What got me was how people could live such full, rich, and eventful lives in a Warsaw ghetto in which they were far more likely to be knocked down by the arbitrary bullet than we South Africans are by the ubiquitous stray taxi. The future is here. Available data has already morphed to information on which the markets are acting. We've slept through it with Google our Laudanum (the military always uses this stuff before anybody else).

What's left? What's a good man to do? Fear becoming the etherised patient on a table? We're already there. Dick and Dubya have scrubbed up and are approaching -- their faces always were masks. In our mix of real of and virtual fear and danger, we need to think of alternatives while being ever mindful of our present predicament. We're goddamn helpless; rats in a maze but, while we have our wits about us, we'd better use them.

Having known fear and having, on one occasion, really known hopelessness, I've been through a kind of mind warp and I do rely on it.

Google, or anybody else for that matter, cannot take, steal, or mess with me. It might torture me or kill me, but it will never know me. I suppose I trade on the old prisoner and warder dilemma; the one needs the other -- be it me or another (there will always be Teh Other). Climate changes. Conditions are at some times more extreme than at others. It doesn't really matter to me because we're all in the same boat, albeit some traveling first class and most steerage.

Besides, in the long run, capitalism is not sustainable. Toffler's accelerated rate of change applies as much to income disparity as it does to overpopulation. I see way too many Mercs passing refugees on the road. The middle ground separating obscene wealth from bone-aching poverty has disappeared on the Dark Continent. Legalized robbery cannot and will not go on like this. Whether we like it or not, or are directly a part of it or not, The Long War is upon us. Rich and poor will fight it out until only one is left to pick himself or herself off the ground.

On the micro level (and back to the Internet), the U.S. faces a hell of a bandwidth shortage. I heard recently demand requires investment in infrastructure way beyond that planned for in years to come. Somebody knows something. I don't mind. I can live without the Web. Sure I'll miss thought-provoking discussions with good friends but, hey, on the one hand, our backs are pressed hard to our new Berlin Wall. On the other hand, people, or hope, or a belief in something better, will endure. Again, no matter the evil Google promises, the up side is that -- ultimately and in an 'Existential' sort of way -- we (you and me) are still in charge.

Despite the near misses of the past weekend, I've been scouring Google Earth for a route around certain natural obstacles deemed impassable but by water. My problem is that I love the shoreline -- that shape-shifting, indefinable line separating land and sea. I'll find a way through. And I'll have the digital pictures posted on a Google-owned site to prove it.

(Most stimulating blogversation I've had in ages -- kinda like the old days. I apologize for writing so voluminously off the cuff.)

11/27/2007 2:22 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

I apologize for writing so voluminously off the cuff.

Though it's Tom's blog, please don't ... apologize, that is.

this from you I liked very much ..

Anarchism is alive and well and living in many of us. Paradoxically, capitalism (like any other social, political, or economic philosophy) is perhaps anarchy realised; a piss-poor result of our freedom to self-organize.

... and I stitch it together with (as is my wont) you:

digital media's stranglehold on our little freedoms (paradoxically most often media created).

This nifty bloggy thing is just about the only thing we've got left where we can actually speak to each other and attend to ideas, other than thinking while on walks along Cape Point or through the woods and fields in Quebec (or the odd bohemian neighbourhood in Montreal of which I am inordinately fond) where we are not subjected to a mediated and to-a-significant-degree controlled alongside the incipient ongoing chaos of everyone's lives (can deadened and anaesthetized minds and emotions be a form of chaos ?).

I love your juxtaposition of ever-present existential danger with getting home for tea. it would be nice to go for a walk with you someday ... preferably all three of us.

11/27/2007 3:22 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

Whether we like it or not, or are directly a part of it or not, The Long War is upon us. Rich and poor will fight it out until only one is left to pick himself or herself off the ground.

And so, full circle to cohen's Future.

Each time I go to Montreal (next in two days' time), I go to a small street in the bohemian Plateau Mont Royal where he still has a row house .. there's a cafe kitty-corner, and i sit there for a coffee and imagine he is my friend. I guess I'm a sort of middle-aged lurker groupie that' is not a stalker. Just paying a moment of homage.

11/27/2007 3:26 PM  

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