How Google Destroyed the Internet
by Ian R Thorpe, 27 August, 2015
Aeons ago people like me created a tool called the internet. Actually we didn't call it 'The Internet', that's a name coined by public relations people. In the early days we computer professionals talked about 'internetworking technology' and the public relations people blethered about 'The Information Superhighway'. Internetworking technology was developed to enable the transfer of data between comouters over telecommunications lines but really got interesting when there was a need to move data between computers that used different protocols for interpreting binary information and turning it into text and images humans could make sense of.
As internetworking became more general and switched network technologies becan to replace point to point networks, companies like DEC and Zerox developed hubs (usually known as routers) to redirect data packets to the right network node. Thus (skipping daintily around the complexities of network addressing or domain naming systems) it became necessary to resolve another problem: in public communications networks, any central node through which all messages passed is vulnerable to attack or takeover. How to achieve that? Simples, triangulate the network nodes and build alternate routing tables (the phone network had done this for years). Its easy to say simple because at that stage all the communications network systems were operated and maintained by companies who found it in their best interests to protect the integrity of their network and systems.
Then came the first public sites, followed by commercialisation and monetization of the internet. Network operators wanted to sell services and web site owners wanted to attract traffic and in most cases make sales. And both wanted to minimize costs and maximize revenue. Unfortunately, in the early daze hippys had flooded onto the internet, chanting a mantra that suggested the internet would free (in the sense of liberate) information and content, a lot of caring, sharing and singing Kumbaya would go on and in this post-corporate world everyone would get rich by giving stuff away free (in the sense of gratis, for no cost). It resulted in a free (in the sense of uncontrolled) for all, malware nightmares, scams, hacking, cyber attacks harassment, bullying and dating / marriage scams.
Under this cyberdystopia model, frightened sheep flocked to certain central sites that provided services they trusted, and avoided everything else, especially if it looked a bit controversial, politically incorrect or non-conformist.
Enter Google. This company made its fortune on a simple premise, which was that picking the most popular sites allowed them to rank all other sites based on whether those popular sites linked to them. Guess what this does? It eliminates the small sites, imprisones information and couple with other features of internet technology, makes censorship easy and invisible, therefore difficult to oppose. We are back to centralization.
Consider Wikipedia. When Google had trouble with its algorithm often missing the best results, it came up with a simple idea: have thousands of internet volunteers plagiarize all of those other sites onto one big site, call it "The People’s Encyclopedia," and use that to generate "accurate" search results every time.
A few years down the line and a few big sites — among them Google, Amazon, Apple, Wikipedia, and Facebook — dominate most of the traffic on the internet. The days of independent thinkers making quality information widely available online are mostly gone, simply because 99% of net users will type in a search and click on the one of the top few results, thus traffic goes to whichever one of those corporate-controlled sites will earn Google most revenue, regardless of the quality of the content and of Google's impossible to fulfill promise to list content in order of quality. Neither computers nor algorithms have the ability to apply context to words or extract meaning from sentences. A computer can quote you the definition of any word but still has no idea what the word means. It simply matches a string, pulls a block of binary data from a database and sends it to a printer or visual display unit which converts the data into text.
Writing from a more political, than economic, viewpoint, one article points out the problem of the Google / Washington dominated internet:
"The Internet, like other computing resources, operates on a pendulum swing: from centralized to decentralized, from rampant innovation to predictable results, from controlled to transparent processes. Some speakers at this year’s Black Hat conference were publicly concerned about an ever-more-centralized Internet and what we as an industry need to do. Otherwise, they fear, the Internet turns into TV, and the people who least understand the environment will control it.
…Technology used to enforce existing power structures, Granick said, but we discovered that people have not learned how to protect themselves. So we have centralized with choke points where regulation can happen. The problem is that, in the next 20 years, these policies will be created by governments with local concerns, not global concerns. And by powerful players with money."
The problem of this internet is that complaints rule the day. Businesses are interested in profit, and so they take down or de-index any content which threatens to obstruct that goal. This includes exactly the type of content which "free speech" rights were created to protect: material that challenges the official dogma, exposes the falsehoods of the official narrative or contravenes the dominant paradigm. Such content could represent either insanity or an alternative worldview to our current political or economic systems which are not working.
When the six large sites control the internet and are eager to collaborate with government agencies obsessed with surveillance, it is easy to install software filters which can intercept and quarantine anything which might encourage scepticism, prompt people to question authority and promote independence of thought and the free exvhange of ideas. And when the government agencies or the corporate censors see anything that is not 'on message' they can easily disappear it.
Google has so far avoided removing content from the internet, but acts out an even worse future by prioritizing that which is popular and burying the unpopular on page eleventy ten of the search results (Unpopular here is not poor content, but that which does not have many powerful links into it, is not packed with keywords in the way that advertising copy is or deals with subjects that are not 'trending'. Bing does the same. The result is a self-referential, self-congratulatory, mutual masturbatory orgy that eliminates what the oligarchy is afraid of, including that which it should be dealing with rather than disappearing.
Similarly, Google can influence the direction of business, and point product development and marketing strategies toward ideological objectives (Google's ideological goal is to gain control of the world's store of accumulated knowledge in order to ensure only 'factual' and 'scientific' information is seen. What is factuial or scientific will of course be defined by Google and their cronies in government.
Google CEO Larry Page estimates that only about 50 investors are chasing the real breakthrough technologies that have the potential to make a material difference to the lives of most people on earth (like implanting chips in our heads so our brains are directly interfaced with Google's server network).
If there is something holding these big ideas back, it is not a shortage of money or even the barrier of insurmountable technical hurdles. When breakthroughs of the type he has in mind are pursued, it is “not really being driven by any fundamental technical advance. It’s just being driven by people working on it and being ambitious,” he says. Not enough institutions – particularly governments – are thinking expansively enough about these issues: “We’re probably underinvested as a world in that.”
What this shows us is the internet, both as a network and a market, consolidating and centralizing. In other words, it is doing exactly what it was designed to avoid. Creating, in a word, MONOPOLY.
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