Sergey Brin & Larry Page’s solution for indexing and searching information on the internet was brilliant. Moving beyond the academic sphere in which this solution was born, the question then became, “but how do we make money with this?”
That equation was solved, and Google has gone on to become one of the world’s largest and most influential companies.
But there is a problem.
Arguably, Google’s solutions to the profit question are causing significant damage to our society. And, perhaps there was a question that should have been asked first: Should this technology be structured around a for-profit business model?
Regardless of how Google got to where it is today, the relevant question now is whether or not it is possible for for-profit (technology) companies to manage free speech. I believe the answer is showing itself to be “no.” And to be fair, I don’t think Google really realized that is what it would be doing when they first started.
I’m beginning to think that the serving up of online information, as a provided service, is something that would be best handled by a non-profit organization. Certainly, that would not be without its challenges; however, I think it may be the best of the three available options: for-profit, non-profit, or government regulated (um, no).
As a society actively discovering the implications of the information age (which Google has helped to create), we are now experiencing some of the challenges that come with the hyper-flow of information and the ethical issues related to “big data.”
And perhaps what it really boils down to is that, in a free society, it just simply doesn’t work to profit from collecting, managing, and profiting from people’s data. The practice just doesn’t jive with a democratic society.
What do you think?