Friday, January 13, 2006

Google's God ...

a neat piece in the Economist (St. Lawrence of Google) on Larry Page's missionary zeal.
If Google is a religion, what is its God? It would have to be The Algorithm. Faith in the possibility of an omniscient and omnipotent algorithm appears to be what Messrs Page and Brin have in common. It's “in their DNA,” says Michael Moritz, a venture capitalist famous for investing early in both Yahoo! and Google. Whereas Yahoo! was started by two Stanford students who turned a hobby into a business, Google was started by two Stanford students who turned an intellectual obsession into a quest, says Mr Moritz. And what is that quest? Merely upstaging Microsoft would be almost banal. “We're not trying to build a better operating system,” says Mr Schmidt (although that will not kill the rumour). Part of the plan is certainly “organising the world's information”. But some people think they detect an even more grandiose design. Google is already working on a massive and global computing grid. Eventually, says Mr Saffo, “they're trying to build the machine that will pass the Turing test”—in other words, an artificial intelligence that can pass as a human in written conversations. Wisely or not, Google wants to be a new sort of deus ex machina.
Hmm. I believe it's been tried before (playing God i.e., not just trying to create AI). And more often than not, the results have been abysmal and even frightening.

Not to knock on Google. It has changed the world.

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