Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Silent GOOGLE revolution

I expect that, within a few years, my Tesla electric car will drive by itself, using Google software. Yes, I am talking about the self-driving, autonomous vehicles that we have seen in science-fiction movies: Google is making these a reality. Its autonomous cars have already driven half a million miles on California roads — without a single accident — and will soon transform transportation in cities all over the world. (I'm not so sure about India, however; only God can tame its drivers.)

Thanks to Google Fiber, my house may one day have 1000 Gigabit Internet. Google’s Wi-Fi balloons, called Google Loon, could provide me with connectivity when I go hiking in the mountains. I expect that a successor to Google Glass will replace my laptop, iPad, and TV; incorporate voice recognition and gestures; and provide me with an immersive 3D-viewing experience.

Google already reads my emails before I do, and, by analyzing what I search for on the Internet and which Web sites I visit, knows what I am thinking. It “knows” what other people think about me. If my friend and noted futurist Ray Kurzweil succeeds in his mission at Google, it will understand my wants and needs too. It will predict what I want to search for, where I want to go to, and what I want to eat. It will understand how my brain thinks and become my personal assistant.

Yes, these are technologies that Google will likely deliver during this decade. It is doing the type of research that Xerox PARC was famous for. It is thinking even bigger than Apple.

When Google went public, it set aside three million shares (now worth close to three billion dollars) for, and has committed an additional 1% of its profits to, philanthropic endeavors. It has been donating the shares to the community and using the philanthropic fund to engineer solutions to the global problems of health, poverty, food, and energy. A group called Google for Entrepreneurs mentors and support entrepreneurs in different parts of the world. The group has been working with a team at Singularity University and Stanford to help women entrepreneurs.

Google has been doing all this since its early days. It has built tremendous goodwill with developers and local communities.

Microsoft was hated when it achieved big success, and its monopolistic, self-serving behavior and arrogance toward its own customers earned it the dubious nickname "the evil empire". Facebook users dislike Facebook for many of the same reasons. But Google has managed to avoid this: despite its intrusions on privacy and its monopolistic market shares in some areas, its customers don't express hatred of it. The goodwill it has built carries it a long way.