The future of Google

VC Confidential has a bullet point list of topics that Google’s Eric Schmidt covered in a recent talk. It offers some good insight into the way Google works, and reinforces why it’s such an interesting organization to keep an eye on. Some of the salient points:

People’s attention is the most important asset for marketers (similar in theme of the AttentionTrust initiative).

This isn’t a new idea at all, but it lies at the heart of what’s going on with technology and the media right now. Google single handedly flipped this on its head. It used to be that information was a scarce resource and attention was practically limitless. Thus, information could demand a premium price, and attention could be gotten (relatively) easily.

Then along came the internet and Google, and flipped it around. Suddenly, information was commoditized and attention is becoming very scare. No longer is it the information itself that’s premium, but rather the attention that it can command. Media companies are running around like headless chickens trying to get their heads around it.

The more important shift that in this new relationship it’s the consumer that has the power. Previously, the media consumer was the one begging and pleading for any kind of media at all. Now that the media consumer has a smorgasboard to choose from, he can afford to be picky.

Google is working on auto-translation products. This will allow content, trapped within a language such as Japanese, to be freed for consumption world wide by all.

This is a huge deal for two reasons. First, from a cultural perspective. The thing about the internet is that the vast majority of it is in English, with the rest divided up between perhaps a dozen other languages (what the percentages are exactly I don’t know). Automatic, tranparent translation would be a huge boon to everyone. To the non-English speaking world, it would open up most of the internet. For the rest of us, it would open up the rest of the internet. Without a language barrier, cultures can connect in ways never before possible. It’s one of those things that gets me excited, at least.

The second is what this entails. Google employs thousands of engineers, many of whom could be described as the smartest in the world. They’re working away at an extremely difficult problem, figuring out what you’re looking for and delivering it to you. As part of their business, they’re working on several other thorny problems – figuring out what ads you’ll be interested in, translation (as mentioned above), and indexing information not easily understood by a computer.

The thing is, all those problems have a common “ultimate solution”: Strong AI

The internet in many ways already resembles a mind. Nodes and networks are the dominant paradigm for our brains and the internet alike; it’s easy to draw the anologies. Imagine if Google could turn their network into a consciousness, something capable of understanding your query and understanding the billions of pages of content out there. Imagine the kind of stuff mankind could do with the internet-as-a-mind, an intelligence that literally knows all the worlds information. That’s a profoundly exciting prospect.

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