Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login

A lot of innuendo and guilt by association, political conspiracy ala Kevin Bacon. I suppose isolation tends to produce conspiracy theories. I'll get down voted for this of course.

When Assange is raising concerns about a potential Google monopoly over the whole of the internet, he is of course, raising a legitimate concern. But the attempts by Assange, and people like Yasha Levine, to tie Google into the military industrial complex are weak sauce. The point about DARPA funding is particularly bullshit. Is any student who ever worked using research funds or equipment from DARPA at a university, and later goes on to found another company, beholden to the agenda of that organization? I worked on projects in college where I scarcely knew where the funds were coming from or who I should be paying my allegiance to.




the attempts by Assange, and people like Yasha Levine, to tie Google into the military industrial complex are weak sauce

The historical, current and future involvement of senior Google executives in US foreign policy, their self-description and in some cases their personal identification as middle-east focused was, I felt, well illustrated in the article. The DARPA point is tangential.


Though the article was focused on middle-east related activities, would your argument change if the article mentioned an equal number of South American or Asia focused conferences/think tanks, etc. etc.

It's interesting that we keep saying US foreign policy, but I wonder if it truly is US only, or if Google's connections in other countries have similar connections and activities? If they do, does that change how we feel about these?


would your argument change

This is a tangent. I don't think there's any argument. The statements were well supported.


The statements are mostly guilt by circumstance. IMHO, there's a lot of puffery and bullshit going on at these NGO conferences and meetings, where self-important people present platitudes in powerpoint slides about vacuous and abstract solutions for the world's problems. It's the same nonsense we've seen before. A bunch of bankers go to meet in secret, and all of a sudden people are talking about Bilderbergers/Trilateral Commission/Illuminati/FreeMasons secretly ruling the international scene.

If a bunch of Silicon Valley guys go to Davos and meet with say, the government of Burma, where they talk about how some technical internet thing is going to help their country, is it nefarious, or is it a naive belief by people passionate about technology and their own ability, that they can solve complex problems with stuff they're working on? (The State Department arranges lots of these "CEO tours" all the time. Are they secretly working on foreign policy, or, are they trying to open up exports, or sell people on American capitalism? And so what if the CEOs are talking about the benefits of the Web or internet technology for an open society? Just because the trip is arranged on behalf of the State Department doesn't make the agenda wrong)

The desire for the ultra-successful techies to thinkt hey can solve the world's problems by exporting Silicon Valley is the kind of thinking Mike Judge lampoons in "Silicon Valley", the naivete' of techies that they can "change the world" by developing an app or distributing computers to people in a country with broken civil institutions.

Assange wants to play "connect the dots" to imply something nefarious going on, but if Angelina Jolie were in the same meetings instead of Eric Schmidt, what would Assange be saying? Hollywood actors often have the same narcissistic view.

Nothing in his commentary actually zeros in on anything Google has done based on these supposed connections that's bad (leaving aside the wrong claims about how PRISM works)

What would be the incentive for Google to risk a tens of billion-a-quarter business on some quid-pro-quo for the US Government or Eric Schmidt's vanity? After all, it is a public company seeking to make a profit. It is not an oil company, it does not harvest raw resources from foreign companies, and it doesn't make hardly any revenue from selling services to the US government. There's not much US government favors can do for it's bottom line. It's biggest impediments are regulations that block people from using its services (mainly China). It doesn't have the same incentives that past American companies needed the American empire for -- to protect its physical interests in oil or resource concessions abroad. You need the US empire for that, you don't necessarily need it to protect virtual assets.

A plausible theory for Google being in bed with the US Government in this regard would have to provide a compelling motive. You can make the case for Exxon, or Unilever, Halliburton, or say, companies with manufacturing plants abroad, that rely on US government protection and contracts, but the only theory about why Google would even want to be in bed with the US government would rest on some kind of threat, like the government putting a regulatory gun to the head of Google threatening onerous restrictions or anti-trust action that would destroy their business unless they comply -- a huge stick, not a carrot.

My point is, Google has more important things to worry about on a day to day basis. They're more worried about competitors like Apple, than some weak ass benefits some association with bureaucrats might provide.

I think Schmidt's post-Google-CEO career, from writing books, to trying to be a pseudo-diplomat and tech-utopian ambassador are really harming Google's brand by association. Bill Gates had the right idea, pick low hanging, high value, fruit, work on the boring stuff, stay mostly quiet about it while you get stuff done. Actions speak louder than words.

But I think it's just that -- association. Google Ideas isn't Google, this Cohen guy is irrelevent to Google's main business lines.


This is probably the clearest most concise rebuff of the Assange's talking points and I completely agree with you.

However, in the interest of transparency, I wish you would have included that you work for Google.

On another note, not only do I agree with your points, but I think you've got a great writing style.


Thanks. It's clearly marked in you HN profile who my employer is, I'm pretty transparent about it, I pretty much assume that anyone who suspects my bias or that I'm "shilling" will just look at my profile.

And yes, it cannot be denied that I have bias towards my employer. It doesn't make my arguments wrong, but it does raise suspicion as to my motivations.


>The State Department arranges lots of these "CEO tours" all the time. Are they secretly working on foreign policy, or, are they trying to open up exports, or sell people on American capitalism?

What's the difference? They both support the agenda of the supporting governments.

>Just because the trip is arranged on behalf of the State Department doesn't make the agenda wrong

Right, but without transparency to indicate one or the other people are likely to perceive the meddling of a specific government within a company that deals with international business to be troublesome/worrying.

>Assange wants to play "connect the dots" to imply something nefarious going on, but if Angelina Jolie were in the same meetings instead of Eric Schmidt, what would Assange be saying?

Does Angelina Jolie have something to do with the world's largest store of personal information, or do you somehow think that Schmidt's influence comes from his celebrity rather than his influence inside one of the world's biggest economic powers?

Angelina Jolie, and celebrities like her, are used to influence the public. Celebrities like Schmidt are powerful because they are leveraging the power of their respective domains.

If I were Assange, i'd probably conclude that the use of a celebrity like Angelina Jolie was for the purposes of controlling a populous or influencing 'the masses' opinion -- but i'm not Assange, and Jolie is tangential.

> Nothing in his commentary actually zeros in on anything Google has done based on these supposed connections that's bad (leaving aside the wrong claims about how PRISM works)

Enduring Security Framework, NSA tool contracts, GeoEye-1 sharing(Both the gov and Google paid for half of the satelite, but the 16 inch resolution imagery is only available for gov use. How's that for fair?), Google's membership within the Defense Industrial Base (“products and services that are essential to mobilize, deploy, and sustain military operations.”), the rental of Google's front page to the state ("Live! Secretary Kerry answers questions on Syria"), and the government support of Schmidt as some sort of official Ambassador for back-channel influence of negotiating parties.

Did you just skim past all that, or do you think that none of this is cause for concern?

>it is not an oil company, it does not harvest raw resources from foreign companies, and it doesn't make hardly any revenue from selling services to the US government. There's not much US government favors can do for it's bottom line.

Google harvests raw resources in the form of data-mining, and turns those resources into a product worth value. The value that it accrues from the US government is not in the form of revenue, but rather in the form of access -- access to those in power and access to business tactics and resources that are above and beyond the treatment of most businesses by the US government.

>You need the US empire for that, you don't necessarily need it to protect virtual assets.

That's far from true. Past large groups did not only depend on the US to protect their physical product, but also to protect their position in the market (if government subsidized usually), to protect their methodologies, and in some cases protect their IP.

Example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Term_Extension_Act

an act, widely considered to have been unconstitutional, voted on by voice, which was created by the reasoning that "copyright industries are one of the largest trade surpluses for the state"

If lobbyists can succeed in increasing a held copyright by 50 years to a 120 year total it doesn't take much imagination to understand why a company may want to be in bed with their host government.

>What would be the incentive for Google to risk a tens of billion-a-quarter business on some quid-pro-quo for the US Government or Eric Schmidt's vanity?

the continued permission to exist as a company and not a fragmented post anti-trust mess?

>My point is, Google has more important things to worry about on a day to day basis. They're more worried about competitors like Apple, than some weak ass benefits some association with bureaucrats might provide.

Google does, but Schmidt doesn't. That's why the assertion that Schmidt is a puppet ambassador for the US government came about -- because he and his highly-political cadre of followers (cabinet?) go from country to country on state sponsored tours, apparently while espousing pro-US/surveillance talking points with the world's leaders.

>Google Ideas isn't Google

What? It may not be the whole of Google, but isn't that a bit silly?


> Geo-Eye high res imagery. Everyone who owns an imagery satellite is pretty much forced to give the government preferential access, and offer lower resolution to the public. This is not Eric Schmidt wanting to do favors for the government, I'm sure all of the competing mapping companies want to offer the best, highest resolution maps, but are often regulated by the state from doing so.

> Kerry ad on front page.

Seriously? So when YouTube hosts President Obama in a Hangout, you think this is some quid-pro-quo for foreign missions? You think Twitter hosting Presidential or Candidate questions, or Facebook doing the same mean something is going on? Red Bull's epic stratosphere sky dive also was promoted in the same way. Google wants to promote their services, like G+/Hangouts/YouTube and the government wants free advertising it's a win-win, and you don't need to concoct a story that this is payback for Eric Schmidt delivering a message to Kim Jong Un, or for Google getting a free-pass from the FTC.

This is what I mean by guilty by association. If YouTube hosts a Whitehouse press conference, there's a product manager in YouTube is supremely happy, but it is extremely unlikely they had to hand over the keys of their servers to the NSA to get it. YouTube audience size and demographics alone are reason enough. In the same manner, Obama went on "Between Two Ferns" not as a favor to the show because of a State Department mission.

Not every relationship between the government and the private sector needs a conspiracy. The government needs to buy toilet paper like everyone else.

"Defense Industrial Base"? Oh, you mean, if the US military opens a Google Apps account, uses Docs, Gmail, and Maps for it's internal planning, suddenly it's no different than Lockheed Martin? The military and government uses Powerpoint like crazy, does this make Microsoft part of the "defense industrial base"? It's a pretty meaningless label then.


It's not mentioned in the article, but Google acquired Boston Dynamics, a military contractor.


And? Do you think Google is going to build robot weapons for the defense department? Or, do you think this was an IP and talent Acquihire?

That's what I mean by guilt-by-association. Elon Musk tried to buy Russian ICBMs, was he trying to build intercontinental ballistic missiles for nuking, or was he trying to get to Mars?


>Do you think Google is going to build robot weapons for the defense department?

Do you think they wouldn't?


Well, Google acquired the defense contracts that Boston Dynamics had during their acquisition, so I guess the answer is:

Yes, they are going to build robots for the defense department.

not that I like Vice.. but: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/how-google-will-manage-its-...

better link. a list of Google defense contracts :

https://www.fpds.gov/ezsearch/fpdsportal?indexName=awardfull...


Of course they're not. Absolutely ZERO evidence or indication they are interested in building robot weapons for the government. To even suggest this is patently absurd and downright offensive. It has absolutely zero to do with the company mission, business model, and would be an affront to company culture as well.

Google might accidentally build SkyNet one day, but they're not going to build it on contract for the government.


Now why would it be offensive? Is Google so much better than Boing or Lockheed Martin?

Saying that it has zero to do with Googles mission or business model isn't relevant. Google does plenty of things that has nothing to do with their mission; which I assume is still "to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful".

Android, self-driving cars, drone delivery, drug research, AppEngine and the whole robots project itself, are all projects that has little or nothing to do with their mission.

If there's money to be made in doing robot weapons for the US government I assure you that Google will at the very least consider it.


>Google might accidentally build SkyNet one day, but they're not going to build it on contract for the government.

You're right, but only by default.

Google forgoes DoD funding once they acquire companies which :

1) have already received DoD funding/grants

2) already have contracts in place with the DoD that must be honored post-acquisition, but are contractually in name with the previous vendor, using Google only as the global representative of the previous existent vendor, while reaping the benefits of a contract.

So, Google surely won't create SkyNet. But 'Cyberdyne Systems : a Google Company' probably will.


My guess is, those contracts will run out, and will not be renewed. None of those contracts are for weapons anyway.

Those DARPA contracts represent an insignificant rounding error in Google's revenue.


>offensive

Are you personally offended by this idea? Or is it offensive to the corporation of Google?

If either, why? If not, will you expand on how it is offensive, please.


From my observations, a large contingent of the employees at Google are fairly progressive on the political spectrum, at the very least, even those on the economic right tend to be of the anti-interventionist libertarian stripe, and not in favor of building weapons to further a military empire.

My guess is, you'd have a hard time getting people to explicitly work on something whose purpose is to kill people. Now, something like a self-driving car could certainly turn into a self-driving unmanned combat vehicle, but I bet the Google X people would be pretty horrified if that's what it was used for, as they are trying to save lives, not take more.

Someone else asked if Google is different than Lockheed Martin or Boeing, and I'd say, the answer is yes. Those companies are steeped in the defense contractor business and make a huge chunk of money by selling weapons to the military.

People often accuse Google of being an "advertising company" and look at where we get our money to find our motivations. Well, if you consistently apply that logic, our interests would be in getting you to watch more cat videos, and Boeing/Lockheed's interests would be in the world needing more weapons.

You can't simultaneously accuse Google of being "only an ad company", while at the same time accusing it of being interested in the military industrial complex, where it receives almost no benefit or revenue.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: