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Too Much Power For One Man (drewdavismedia.com)
112 points by loupereira on July 13, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 86 comments

A fitting cartoon analogy for cartoon logic.

I am reminded of an Alan Moore quote:

“In the mid 1980's I was asked by an american legal institution known as the Christic Legal Institute to compile a comic book that would detail the murky history of the C.I.A., from the end of the second world war, to the present day. Covering such things as the heroin smuggling during the Vietnam war, the cocaine smuggling during the war in Central America, the Kennedy assasination and other highlights.

What I learned during the frankly horrifying research that I had to slog through in order to accomplish this, was that yes, there is a conspiracy, in fact there are a great number of conspiracies that are all tripping each other up. And all of those conspiracies are run by paranoid fantasists, and ham fisted clowns. If you are on a list targeted by the C.I.A., you really have nothing to worry about. If however you have a name similar to someone on a list targeted by the C.I.A., then you are dead?

The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory, is that conspiracy theorists believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is actually chaotic. The truth is that it is not The Iluminati, or The Jewish Banking Conspiracy, or the Gray Alien Theory. The truth is far more frightening.

Nobody is in control.

The world is rudderless...”

The concerns expressed in the post have nothing to do with conspiracy, and everything to do with power. Democracies are usually built in such a way as to prevent concentration of power -- not to fight a real or imagined conspiracy. Concentration of power in itself is bad enough even without malevolent intent behind it.

I think the point is that even when individuals accrue large amounts of power, like Page/Brin, Zuckerberg, the Kochs, the Bushes, or the Clintons, that it is never really all that concentrated, because there are still thousands and millions of competing interests to consider.

Power flows from many different places. At least for the past couple of centuries, it is never so concentrated that a single individual can orchestrate the world without repercussions.

Not only that, the article makes it sound like Larry Page set out to conquer the world and decided to start from a search engine. The reality is far from that, there is no master plan to capture the personal information of everyone, just the need to provide useful services and an incredible business acumen on the part of the management that consistently acquire winning teams and companies over the years.

The commenter is arguing the opposite - without concentration of power, you get chaos, which is a bad thing

Which is why democracies have checks and balances, and it is our responsibility to make sure that the power held by private institutions does not grow unchecked. The US made that mistake once, and it took a heroic struggle to wrestle that power away [1].

[1]: http://www.theodorerooseveltcenter.org/Research/Digital-Libr...

It doesn't say chaos is a bad thing.

I'm reminded of the cross-referenced index of conspiracy theories, one per page for several hundred pages:


http://www.rawilson.com/undercontrol.html (Sample)

Can't believe nobody's linked this yet http://xkcd.com/1274/

Too distracted watching the football...

It's helpful to also consider conspiracies using Julian Assange's framework which may have been influenced by Moore.


Without secrecy there is no conspiracy.


According to these two blog posts, [1] and [2], the source is the film The Mindscape of Alan Moore. [3] I love the quote too, I just learned of it.

[1] http://dailyhumanist.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/the-world-is-r...

[2] http://pvewood.blogspot.fr/2012/04/some-alan-moore-quotation...

[3] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0410321/

Searching on "alan moore christic legal institute" brings up quite a few hits centered around a pair of graphic novels called "Brought to Light". Maybe that's it? There's a full quote on goodreads.com, but it also isn't sourced. I, too, wouldn't mind having a good source for that quote. Sounds like an interesting read.

Check out the sibling comment I just added: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8027794

I like Google, and what Page has achieved. If they act in ways I don't agree with, I can stop using their service(s). It's not like Google take my resources by force, and then use them to do unspeakable evil.

Page and cohorts have demonstrably shown a knack for developing tech which the world finds useful. And for that I'm grateful.

Yet! I don't need to express my gratitude to him. Instead, he's rewarded with 'disagreeable' money & power.

What does he do with the acquired wherewithal? New projects. And in counterintuitive directions, which others only find insightful after the fact!

Page's et al. investment in Calico -- their pro-longevity/healthspan biotech company -- is one such example. They're investing in one of the world's most significant problems. Maybe the most! Dismissed by others, but seen as doable by someone who has been prescient time and again!

This 'power-hungry' character may just save or extend your life one day! Contra to what others would have done with the same power/money.

..."But by the end, Lex Luther spent his final years fighting off increasing government regulation and a growing mass of lawsuits while trying to keep his company from succumbing to bureaucratic rot and his employees innovative. The good employees kept jumping ship while the mediocre ones were proving impossible to dislodge. He eventually died in a bizarre yacht accident involving a prostitute, several chickens and some ketamine, having failed to maintain his dominance of the world. He was replaced by a guy with an MBA from Stanford who had very straight teeth and that said all the right things at the right time and who slowly ran the company into the ground by selling off divisions one after the other in order to meet annual bonus growth profit targets."

Article forgot to mention Lex's many biometrics acquisitions (e.g. Neven Vision) prior to sending his fleet of cameras down every road in the civilized world, dabbling in mass genetics (23andme), "accidental" mass capture of open wifi traffic, spyware he convinced 63% of all web sites to deploy (Analytics), or the sensor-packed mobile devices he has root on in a few million peoples' pockets.

It would only require something like 0.25 9/11's to turn Lex into the worlds largest and most terrifying defence contractor. Of course this sounds ridiculous, but it's probably just a few short pieces of emergency legislation from reality

Isn't it nice how you can make most things sound evil if you just use the right wording. What you wrote reminds me of cases where law enforcement takes terms like "subversion" used by an engineer and extrapolates evil plots out of them.

Which wording do you speak of? About the only loading used here is "Lex", which was borrowed from the article. The remainder is a fairly plain depiction of reality



> Spyware is software that aids in gathering information about a person or organization without their knowledge and that may send such information to another entity without the consumer's consent, or that asserts control over a computer without the consumer's knowledge.

Save me the boring arguments about how regular people who can barely work a toaster can still somehow magically elect to avoid Analytics using browser plugins and editing their hosts file

It's not a question if someone with too much power will abuse that power. It always happens, always. It's not a question of if it will happen or not, it's a question of when and under what circumstances.

That's why we have the division of power in governments, that's why we have countries, because too much power concentrated by too few individuals will always get abused. If not by the individuals themselves, someone else or another organization, the NSA comes to mind, will find a way to abuse that power at some point in time when the conditions are right.

Yes. The problem is that while we have division of power in governments, there is little stopping private enterprise from accumulating worrying amounts of power. There is antitrust law, which in theory should be the solution, but in practice is hardly applied in modern times.

Wild conspiracy theory aside, I just realized that in a few years after the nest userbase grows more, they could tweak the temperature setting algorithm to secretly and gradually lower the user's "acceptable" temperature over time to acclimate users to lower temperatures, cutting energy usage in the world by a significant amount. Conspiracy for good? :)

Good mind! Come to France ;) We're not keen on AC, our office temperatures are rather 23-27 in summer, we sometimes stink and we know it's good for ecology. BTW, I'm not sure Nest has any potential in France. Maybe in international hotels only?

Eh. This article emphasizes the wrong things. Larry Page isn't some super villain building robot armies to take over the world. Any significant harm he/Google might do to the world will likely be via the unintended consequences of actions motivated primarily by profit. We already see this -- the slow erosion of privacy expectations, etc.

As for all of the internet of things/robotics acquisitions and R&D... well, I'm not in the board room during these discussions, but I highly doubt that building robotic armies is on anyone's mind. More likely, Page et al. see this as a next major growth area and would like to stay ahead of the curve. Esp. the Boston Dynamics acquisition is probably less about military applications than general experience with complicated robots.

>This article emphasizes the wrong things. Larry Page isn't some super villain building robot armies to take over the world.

The article doesn't say that. The author just lays out the facts, then concludes by stating that he is not saying that Page will abuse his power, but simply that he could.

>I highly doubt that building robotic armies is on anyone's mind.

On what basis do you doubt this? Because it's unpleasant to imagine? Hard to believe?

Regardless, the point of the article (and indeed, the very title) is that we have placed a lot of power into one man's hands. Perhaps we should consider the potential consequences (intended or not), and whether simply "doubting" that this power will be abused is sufficient.

> The author just lays out the facts, then concludes by stating that he is not saying that Page will abuse his power, but simply that he could.

Right, and I think emphasizing nutty conspiracy theories distracts from the more important systemic and gradual, but perhaps less exciting, impact that Google actually has (e.g. on privacy.)

You don't need to resort to conspiracy in order to isolate real ways in which Google has having large -- arguably negative -- impacts on our everyday lives.

> On what basis do you doubt this?

Mostly motive. Google doesn't particularly stand to benefit from building a private army. But also, I used all my tin foil heating up potatoes.

>Right, and I think emphasizing nutty conspiracy theories

I missed the conspiracy theory in the article. Can you point it out? Again, it appeared to be a series of facts illustrating the power of Google/Page and a rational question: Do these facts represent the concentration of too much power in one man's hands?

>distracts from the more important systemic and gradual, but perhaps less exciting, impact that Google actually has (e.g. on privacy.)

Why can't it be both-and vs. either-or? Sure, the privacy issue is clear-and-present. But, keep in mind that when Google first started, we were just happy to have such a powerful search-engine. Perhaps it would have been a "nutty conspiracy theory" then to worry about your privacy. After all, why would Google abuse their access to your data when "Google doesn't particularly stand to benefit from"... abusing its customers' trust?

What seems most counter-intuitive, however, is that you don't trust them with your data, but you trust them with, say, launching satellites and wielding combat-robot technology. I'm not being facetious when I say that it's honestly kind of hard to find the line with you.

>Mostly motive.

Pretty amazing that you think you know Page's motives. Actually, scratch that: we can all surmise. What's amazing is that you're so certain.

Regardless, even with the "purest" motives, it's worth considering whether so much power can lead to unintended consequences.

>* Google doesn't particularly stand to benefit from building a private army.*

Nor does it from abusing your privacy. Or does it?

>But also, I used all my tin foil heating up potatoes.

Apparently, not. The article never stated that Page was building a private army. You did.

I wish you would read what I'm writing instead of what you want me to (not) be writing.

>The article never stated that Page was building a private army. You did.

Oh come on. It's the entire damn point of the article. Without this running narrative, the article's just a list of Google's most successful products and its recent acquisitions. Despite your claim, the article isn't simply a list. And the editorializing is the only reason this article is on the front page of HN. Period.

I realize it's just a rhetorical device, but the article reads still like a conspiracy theory. The only thing this article does is, at best, lump critics of Google's privacy behavior in with conspiracy nuts.

And there's no reason to appeal to fantastical "what-if's" when there are real, demonstrable problems.

> Why can't it be both-and vs. either-or?

It can be (see below), and I think the notion that I somehow implied Google's new expansions cannot be problematic is mostly a fabrication of your indigence.

It's just that I think the narrative of the article is completely ridiculous and trivializes actual avenues for abuse.

What is Google doing to do with military technology? It has 3 options:

1. Use it to create technology which augments its other ventures.

2. Sell to US Govt or our allies.

3. Create a private army or sell to our enemies.

2 and 3 don't worry me for the same reason I don't worry about Boeing taking over the world; military tech is closely monitored and regulated. I don't have to know Page's motives to know that he knows that if he were try try 3, he'd probably end up in prison or dead.

I don't have to be omniscient to assume he probably wouldn't take that kind of risk. And hell, I don't even need to know anything about him to know that if he did, the US military would be able to easily unilaterally shut him down.

Scenario 1 worries me (despite what you've read into my previous comments), but it's really just an additional element of the privacy problem. And the author was too busy telling a cute story to focus on non-insane potential avenues of abuse.

TL;DR: Rhetoric matters, and the rhetoric of this article is unhelpful at best, and possibly harmful.


The point is that ALTHOUGH Google's recent acquisitions might be problematic from a privacy perspective, painting them as something more sinister is a cheap rhetorical device which, at best, provides an easy straw-man for genuine concerns about Google's behavior wrt privacy. (edit: added this in a desperate attempt to explain what I've been trying to say since my first comment)

Also, my position has been consistent. I'm editing so much because I feel the need to write very, VERY clearly for you, because you seem to misinterpret everything that's not extremely carefully stated. {edit: and upon additional review after posting, I realize that there's some tiny thing that you could misinterpret. So I go back an edit; mostly slight rewording}

E.g. the "apparent contradiction" you pointed out isn't at all -- it's a conspiracy theory that the article's author doesn't believe, which makes it a a rhetorical device. Please feel free to point out any others.

{edit: grammar. Also, yeah, triple posts! Is this better?}

{edit: also, I always stop editing after the first comment, but usually not before. The point of indicating edits to prevent diverging discussion and lack of context; as long as there's no reply, I don't see the annoying edit comments as necessary. Sorry if I offended you...}


I didn't think my now deleted grandparent comment was inflammatory, but judging from your responses, I see that I've inadvertently angered you.

In any event, this is not constructive. So, I've deleted the grandparent. No harm intended. Take care.

UPDATE: I see that you've edited and deleted some of your posts, removed expletives, etc. So, perhaps you've calmed a bit. Still, while I appreciate you sharing your views, it's probably best to wrap this thread. No further comments from me will be forthcoming. Take care.

Being motivated 'purely by profit' means that you are deliberately acting without morals. That isn't an unintended consequence. It is an intended consequence of pretending you aren't responsible for your actions.

Was the parent post edited? Right now it says "motivated primarily by profit," not "purely"

No, I didn't edit that post.

Also, gress: I don't necessarily disagree with you. But there is a distinction.

There is a distinction, but I think that primarily does imply that profit takes priority over ethical concerns, so I'd argue that in this case the distinction doesn't change the argument.

> the slow erosion of privacy expectations, etc.

> slow

SLOW?????? More like super-sonic.

Maybe gradual would've been a more appropriate word. The point is it happened piecemeal over 15 or so years, rather than all at once.

That's quite a bit of headpatting.

Because you know, B.O. - a young man has risen from humble begginings to rule over one of the most powerful countries in the world. K.J.U. - a pudgy asian young man that enjoyed pointing at things and cake now holds the keys to the awesome power of NUCLEAR WEAPONS.

And let's not mention that wiley rascal, V.P., an unassuming ex secret agent in a semi frozen country, that has risen to the rank of president, controlling as many 2 MILLION TROOPS.

Anyway, did you guys know amazon has tinfoil now. Also drones. And they now what we buy. And an army of people at their command, driving around every corner of the earth for no reason! Sure, they say that they "deliver" stuff, but you know what else is delivered? MILITARY PAYLOADS! Damn that handsome J.B.!

With truly evil billionaires out there - the Koch brothers come to mind - and family run organizations that take horrible advantage of employees - like Walmart and the Waltons - why is it so many people want to make a case against Google and its founders?

Yes, it makes sense to keep a check on powers. But I'm way more worried about all of our three-letter agencies and the private billionaire donations behind the power structure in Washington than the company that may in fact give me self-driving cars, give Internet access to remote parts of the world, and so on.

This article feels like it's doing nothing but trying to build an evil genius narrative where none exists. When you summon images of Lex Luther in the first sentence, you've lost me.

Come on.

The article specifically ends with this after setting up the scenario:

>I’m not saying that Page is going to abuse his power. I am saying that he could. And that, should make us uneasy. If the old saying is true, that power corrupts, then perhaps Larry Page has too much power for one man.

The point is obviously that Google has far too much power in our society, in excess of just about any other organization, even some governments, and that the Google motto shouldn't make us trust them with it. No one should be trusted with the power Google has. The people at the helm are only human.

Indeed. I just posted a similar response to another comment elsewhere on this thread.

It's ironic too that the company's motto was (is?) "Don't be Evil". Kind of a self-acknowledgment of the power they were amassing from even he earliest days. There is also a choice implicit in formulating and publicizing such a motto. That is, "we have the power and the option to be evil, but we are asking you to trust us."

Beyond that, it's a motto straight from the comic super-villain motif: A mega-company seeking powerful futuristic technology, with a grandiose and ironic PR slogan that completely contradicts its true activities.

Not saying that's Google and none of this is to say we should all be building bomb-shelters; only that the article is spot-on in tone and content.

Yeah, the Koch Brothers are evil. That George Soros, though, he's totally a force for good. The reality is that left and right all have their rich supporters, and only the truly blinkered would say one side is "evil" and the other is "good".

The Koch brothers donated hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research. Have you given as much?

Themartorana never said that the left was good and the right was evil, and never said anything about George Soros. Even worse, you are engaging in a tu quoque fallacy to defend this perceived partisanship.

The Koch brothers spent $31 million in 2012 to lobby for their coal power interests [1], which is linked to higher rates of lung cancer for miners, people who live near mines [2], and people who live near coal power plants [3]. I consider their cancer research donations restitution.

[1]: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/nov/07/oil-lobby-coal-...

[2]: http://www.scopemed.org/?mno=20068

[3]: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19187950

I've yet to hear of any right-wingers criticise the Koch brothers. Perhaps Themarorana is a rogue libertarian that doesn't like them, but I'd consider that one of the least-likely possibilities.

I'd also say that promoting fossil fuels, which are responsible for most of the prosperity we have today, is a pretty low bar to have to cross in order to be considered "evil".

ISIS are evil. The Leader of North Korea is evil. The Koch Brothers (or George Soros)? Not so much

Did you sense any irony when you read "Run to Walmart to buy our tinfoil hats." ?

I'd posit that the OP has a focus of concern. If they read your comment, you've likely just sent them over the edge into cape-wearing-radioactive-spider-please-bite-me territory.

>With truly evil billionaires out there - the Koch brothers come to mind

what the fuck do you think gives you the right to claim someone is evil? I literally cannot imagine how much of a goddamn bubble you must live in to think you have any right to call someone evil because their political opinions differ from yours.

Let's see... he's a human with his opinions, knowledge, and internet access. He can claim whatever he wants.

It's the same thing that gives you the right to ride quixotically in to win the internet for billionaires everywhere this fine day.

A little harsh, but I agree in general. The Koch Brothers spend their money promoting mainstream political causes in a legal, and as far as I know, fairly standard, manner. There are financiers on the left that do the same things, and just as it was silly when the right was foaming at the mouth about Carl Icahn, it's silly when the left foams about the Kochs. It seems that people hate whichever one their chosen media network decides to demonize, but really both are playing according to the rules (as far as I know; neither have been convicted of a crime related to this yet, at least).

Some people are just bitter, and specifically, the hacker community has a long-standing issue with tolerance.

Isn't evil as undefined as good?

Although people have different definitions of 'good' and 'evil', in practice most people roughly agree about most of it. Humans have very similar minds. It's easy to lose sight of this, since discussion mostly focuses on the parts where we disagree, but that's some pretty serious selection bias.

I think the opposite is the case.

There is a big bunch of people who thing gays are bad or blacks or jews or people who don't believe in their god.

The war on drugs also made many people "evil" in the eye of those who don't did drugs, but most of them just were a bunch of spaced-out-hippies.

What about the Presidency of the United States? Anyone that gets elected to this position has quite a bit more power than Larry Page.

I don't think modern presidents actually have as much power as people commonly assume. The massive bureaucracies under them take awhile to learn to navigate... and by that time your 4-8 years is up.

Not to mention checks and balances.

The POTUS is unquestionably the most powerful person on the planet.


The ability to engage in wars of almost any scale by itself is enough to command the respect of anyone. They're suppose to have congressional approval but they regularly bypass that.

The President of the US also is tasked with appointing over 6000 of the top federal officials and federal judges. The POTUS can change the CIA director (which is arguably the 2nd most powerful organization in the world, only seconded by the US Navy), and the NSA, FBI, NASA, and many others.

Foreign and domestic policy is greatly influenced by the President, they can very easily change the direction of humanity, (Iraq and Afghanistan wars, millions killed, so much money spent, unknown what the world would be like today if they hadn't happened).

If the president really wanted to, he could declassify almost anything and even give the order to launch a nuclear missile (might require Emergency Powers, which he has the right to use).

Forbes says Putin is more powerful, it's debatable I suppose. http://www.forbes.com/powerful-people/list/

I'm not sure I buy into the Larry Page-as-Lex-Luthor analogy, even if it's meant to be more evocative than literally descriptive. (Page has achieved, circumstantially, what Luthor single-mindedly strove to do.) People seem to want to attribute sinister motives to Page, and while I don't know the man, all available evidence suggests he's more ambitious business tycoon than Big Brother-in-training.

I do, however, think there's something very interesting in this piece. Namely, what does it mean for someone to hold such potential power over the lives of so many? In the grand sweep of history, the amount of theoretical control over the world afforded to someone in Larry Page's position has accumulated in the blink of an eye, and it's staggering.

Technology is changing more quickly than our ability to understand its ethical, socioeconomic, and even existential implications. That doesn't mean we have to adopt the Luddite program, to be frightened of technology, and to slow its progress. We should welcome the rapid progress, and encourage technology. At the same time, perhaps we need to get a lot more serious about developing a coherent philosophy of technology, and a forward-looking technology policy. For instance: it's still a bit crackpotish to suggest we should be working on a Three Laws of Robotics in 2014, but that notion will become less outlandish in the next few years. And maybe, as Asimov subtly suggested, we're the robots who need the guidelines.

We live in very interesting times. More accurately, we're living the prologue to some very interesting times.

I don't really agree with the premise, which is that drewdavismedia is intelligent enough to decide for other people what they are allowed to have.

I’m not saying that Page is going to abuse his power. I am saying that he could.

And do what? Be specific. Read my e-mails?

The constant fear of corporations has been puzzling me ever since I saw RoboCop. Back then at least it was tied to the fear of rising Japan who contributed to the world war not too long before.

The tech companies on the other hand have to be some of the most meek and least abusive organizations in existence. They pale in comparison even to a provincial police office who will dispatch storm troopers and search your house for plants based on the flimsiest of evidence.[1]

Yet in some people's mind they are this imminent threat, though not really specified. How does that happen?

[1] http://www.fourwinds10.net/siterun_data/government/law_enfor...

1. Society has lots of problems. Probably mass incarceration is a much larger problem than over-armed local police departments. That doesn't mean we shouldn't address the problem of over-armed local police departments. It also doesn't mean the problems are unrelated.

Similarly, militarization of police and decreased personal privacy expectations are probably not completely unrelated. And we don't have to focus on one to the exclusion of the other.

2. Actually, yes, Google is reading your emails. Even if you don't use gmail, they probably know who you are and who you talk with and what you talk about.

Eroding privacy is a real social problem. I'm not sure why you are so quick to trivialize.

3. Tech corporations may have great PR, but they are certainly aware of the fact that they externalize costs in the forms of e-waste dumping and horrible labor conditions. Just because you don't have to see this stuff doesn't mean it does not exist.

Corporations may not be deliberately evil, but they are gorillas in the room with money and influence. Every time they turn around, someone gets hurt somewhere. So folks fear them, and rightly so.

> The constant fear of corporations has been puzzling me ever since I saw RoboCop.

The fear of corporations has to do with the fact that for many years the US population was under the thumb of a few capitalists who exploited and enslaved in all but name big portions of the populace (they even had their own private paramilitary police). It took many years and some brave men[1] and women[2] to expose the system and eventually give the federal government enough regulation power to curtail the power of corporations. Therefore, Americans in particular have very valid reasons to fear corporations, because they suffered their abuse and know what they're capable of.

The scary thing is that I'm not sure any of the robber barons ever had as much power at their disposal as Google does.

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_roosevelt#Domestic_pol...

[2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ida_tarbell

I am pretty sure there is a much larger vision behind all these seemingly disjoint acquistions and ventures. One day when the final piece is put together, we mere mortals will realize what is happening behind the scenes right now. But it might be too late by then.

I don't disagree with the general point that power easily corrupts, but found it odd this was the only post on the website (bar an About page - the Contact page links to the About page, which contains what I read as blurb as best).

So, like usual, I did a WHOIS.

This domain was registered yesterday: July 12th.

   Registrar: LIQUIDNET LTD.
   Whois Server: whois.liquidnetlimited.com
   Referral URL: http://www.liquidnetlimited.com
   Status: clientTransferProhibited
   Updated Date: 12-jul-2014
   Creation Date: 12-jul-2014
   Expiration Date: 12-jul-2015
Seems like FUD to me.

Don't forget that he's also trying to "beat death". http://time.com/574/google-vs-death/

This could expand his control beyond the world, and as far as the universe! Or perhaps even, The Multiverse!!

I've always got the impression that Sergey Brin is the true visionary of the two.

The whole world dominance theory is an exaggeration. The biggest markets in the world (by population) are completely closed to Google.

They have their own versions of Facebook, Youtube, Google and everything else we use here in the west, and that's not going to change anytime soon since the governments have protectionist policies in these sectors.

And even in parts of the west, namely the EU, policies are implemented which are trying to push Google out of the market, or at least weaken it severely, to allow their local industries to grow.

Whatever you might fear that Google will become some day, it wont happen, since they wont even get a fair chance in most markets to get dominant. And even if they do, they will be pushed out by the government, if it can afford it.

True, but that doesn't change things for people living in North America. Also, even in Europe Google is doing extremely well (look at market share in search, for example), despite legislators being somewhat adversary.

Last I checked, GOOG is a public company that answers to a board of directors and shareholders. Not a private company with a megalomaniac potentate heading it up.

Larry and Sergey control 55% of the voting rights:


if the rest of the shareholders don't agree with them they can... do absolutely nothing about it

I actually don't worry too much about them.

It's if/when these massive tech companies go bankrupt and monopolistic control crudely goes to the highest bidder (likely some leveraged buyout organization) that I worry about.


We've already seen a number of cases where technology that was originally royalty-free or open source becomes encumbered after sale of a company.

Theoretically, companies that want to "do good" could put IP and data in a separate trust, but that's kind of like throwing away money you might need when times are tough.

I remember people saying "but Sun would never.." before Sun was acquired. Oracle has been a decent caretaker, but I doubt that (for instance) that anyone ever imagined that there would ever be a need to fork Hudson.

The takeaway for all of us is - Don't trust assurances of companies about their assets unless they have taken steps to protect them independently.

Indeed Detroit is going through this with their museum's assets, which could be liquidated to pay creditors. Suddenly I understood (part of) why owners of art lend things to museums instead of giving them.

As a further comment to my post, I guess it's safe to say I trust Brin and Page more than I trust control split apart a million ways to a million middle-class people like myself. If someone made the argument that Google could do something evil and I'd only have to work 30 hours per week for the rest of my life instead of 40, I'd be tempted. Brin and Page have no such incentive.

They likely can't vote to make specific decisions, but Google is accountable to its shareholders nonetheless and could be held legally liable if they were to do something detrimental to shareholder interests.

Not sure how much of a remedy that really is, but it's at least there.

I like a good story that appeals to emotions but unfortunately emergent self organization appears to dispel conspiracy: http://www.ted.com/talks/james_b_glattfelder_who_controls_th...

Unfortunately, because I think modulation is easier with less moving parts.

What was the point of this awfully written collection of words? Also, could someone contact the author and let him know of the existence of Microsoft Word? His contact link is broken and he has way too many typos to be in the front page of Hacker News.

"Of course this is not a fictional story. The company in question is not Lexcorp, it is Google." Another mission for Captain Obvious

This, and some of the comments sounds like something out of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged". Damn those that make profit and dont share it with those with less ability...

What the hell are you talking about?

The article is about power, not money. Also, there's no suggested course of action. In fact, a legitimate course of action could be "stop using Google's services so that if shit hits the fan, they don't have your data".

How could enlightened self-interest of consumers ever possibly be construed as an assault on liberty (or whatever-the-hell)?

It's really best never to think of those you disagree with in terms of flat caricatures.

> What the hell are you talking about?

Please don't—even when the other person is being provocative.

Have you read Atlas shrugged?

To reiterate, how could enlightened (individual) self-interest of consumers ever possibly be construed as an assault on liberty (or whatever-the-hell)?

edit: Pretty sure not eating McDonald's every day is not an affront to capitalism. To assume that critics of McDonald's food are automatically calling for regulation/whatever, instead of just trying to educate people to help them act in their self-interest, is a caricature. Similarly, suggesting any critic of Google is automatically some sort of proto-communist is a ridiculous caricature.

>>To reiterate, how could enlightened (individual) self-interest of consumers ever possibly be construed as an assault on liberty (or whatever-the-hell)?

Read the book and you'll know...

To the extent that you think objectivism is inconsistent with choosing not to use a product or convincing others not to use a product, I think you've missed the point. In particular, not using Google because you think your privacy is more valuable than the value generated by google's products is pretty exemplary of rational selfishness and individual freedom.

To the extent that you're correct, you're just discrediting Rand as a true private sector authoritarian.

edit: I've read the book.

Let's say Larry Page knew who I was, and didn't like me. Does he really actually have the ability to go in and read my email? I would guess not...

I assume that this comment will just be buried so that others can't even read it, since it will go against most people's belief systems.

I saw several people in here say something about "conspiracy theories" as if to refute a "conspiracy theory" that was stated in the thread. But I didn't see any such thing said. Maybe I missed it.

I will go ahead and start on the "conspiracy theories" by linking to the following story from Al Jazeera:

Exclusive: Emails reveal close Google relationship with NSA


Why would anyone think that everyone (the world) would just let Larry Page and Google do whatever they want? At a certain point, either people with power attached themselves to this enterprise, or they just decided to give up their power and let Page and Google take it.

I think its a fantasy to believe that there aren't governments involved or that they really just have everyone's best interests in mind.

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