The Marketing Bureau

Specialist Marketing & Communications Resourecs



Google's Overweening Conceit

Posted by Alan Mitchell on his Reinvent Marketing Blog

Last week, Google CEO Eric Schmidt gave the closing address to the consumer electronics and home appliances tradeshow IFA in Berlin.  I’ve transcribed some of the things he said, just to illustrate the lunacy that’s unfolding before our very eyes. 


Eric Schmidt Google CEO

“The stuff of science fiction of a few years ago is becoming very very real. The Internet is creating a great disruption, it’s changing so many things in so many different ways. Some assumption we had is no longer true, and is replaced by another assumption.  

OK … Fair enough

“The Internet has replaced the economics of scarcity with the economics of ubiquity. You have to be all over everywhere all the time.”  

This is utter baloney. Fashionable baloney but baloney nevertheless: Silicon Valley smoking its own exhaust fumes.

a) it forgets we live in a material world of soil, air, water, mineral resources, fossil fuels (all finite and becoming scarce). So is the most precious resource in the world: human time and attention.

b) the only thing he is referring to is information ubiquity and the conclusion he draws – that ‘you have to be all over everywhere all the time’ – is precisely the opposite to our real challenge which is one of information logistics: getting the right information to, and from, the right people at the right time.  

“Any business that is built on controlling or restricting the flow of information is having difficulty, whereas businesses that are about popularising information and getting it as broadly as possible tend to benefit in this new world, and we see this from our technology. All of these disruptions are both terrifying and exciting, especially obviously for the incumbents.”

On the button on this point.

“This disruption – this benefit – is going to continue, driven by Google and other companies as well. The future gets very interesting, very quickly. This golden era of augmented humanity. Imagine a golden era of breakthroughs. Computer science is now driving knowledge in human disciplines in all sorts of new ways. As scientists we can really solve big problems: global warming, terrorism, financial transparency – these are fundamentally information problems”

Oh My Giddy Aunt! We’re back to the age-old technocratic lunacy of believing technology will solve everything. With one fancy flight of rhetoric Schmidt has reduced human nature, emotions and behaviour into ‘a problem’ that can be ‘solved’ with some clever use of ‘information’. There are two options here: a) he actually believes this, b) he’s being utterly cynical. Either way, it’s quite terrifying.

“So imagine a future – a very near future – that goes something like this.  

“You don’t forget anything. Why? Because the computer remembers. You don’t have to remember any more. The computer remembers. It remembers the things you should have remembered but you don’t remember any more. Computers will become good at what we’re not good at. Making lists, keeping track of all the things that are going on in our lives. Humans just aren’t very good at that. Computers excel at these types of things.

“You are never lost. Now your smartphone knows your position. So do your friends.

“Your car. Your car should be able to drive itself. It knows where it is, it knows where the other cars are, it knows where you are going. The car should take you where you want to go.

“This explosion of real-time telemetry which is a fantastic explosion of information is the defining computer science data challenge.”

Yes … So?

“You really do have the world’s information at your fingertips in any language …

We will know and help you figure out what to pay attention to right now.
Ah so! Note the shift - from ‘you’ to ‘we’. Who is ‘we’? The answer of course, is Google.  We have shifted from ‘you’ doing stuff, to Google doing stuff because it’s Google that  knows, not you

 Google will solve my problems for me! Google will help me figure out what to pay attention to! Pass all responsibility, and power, to Google!

“The explosion in information, the explosion in user content, in real time data – what am I thinking, what am I doing, social networks and so forth – we can help you sort that out. We can help you figure out what is most relevant to you right now".

Note the implied claim: Google not only knows what I’d doing on the net, it also knows what’s going on in my head.  Phew! I don’t have to think or choose for myself any more. Google will do it for me!

“You are never lonely; because your friends are always near to you, at least in cyberspace. You are never bored, because instead of watching television you can waste time watching the Internet, and we have a lot more choices for you waste your time with".  

"Loneliness. Boredom. These are not problems of the human condition. Like global warming and terrorism they are ‘information problems’ and Google will ‘solve’ them by knowing what information to serve up to you".

“And occasionally you may learn something. Whether it’s games, videos or films we can suggest what you should be watching because we know what you care about. So you don’t have to worry so much about the choices – we figure it out for you".

He’s really pushing this one. Repeat after me. You don’t have to think for yourself any more. You don’t have to make choices for yourself any more. Google will do it for you.

“We are never out of ideas. We can suggest what you should do next, what you care about, all the things in front of you".

Oh My! Big Brother Google is really getting going now … But wait, there’s more!
“Imagine the world’s calendar knowing everything – all the events. We know where you are, we know all the things you like, […]
We’re there! We’ve reached the ultimate nirvana! Google has become omniscient! All hail God Google!

“…] and all of a sudden we can suggest ‘well, there’s an amazing play here, there’s a great concert around the corner that you didn’t know about and that your friends care a lot about’.

And here we have the sucker punch. Google’s vision of the future: Google as the world’s omniscient, omnipresent, ubiquitous behavioural targeting-driven social network skimming ad server.

“And what I like most about this vision is that it is a future for everyone".

No. NO. PLEASE! Is there no escape?

“It’s not a future just for the elites. Historically, information services and information power has been for the rich people and knowledge workers and so forth. This is technology that is accessible to every single person on the planet – or at least all the people who can afford smart phones …

“This a future committed to doing good. It’s a future that gives people time to do what they really care about: thought, ideas, intuitions, solutions, doing what they love. It’s about people, society and the fun that they all have".

I think I’m going to be sick.

“It’s interesting that this is a future that is the stuff of poetry. There’s a quote that I like: “Google is made of us. A sort of coral reef of human minds and their products”. That’s from William Gibson last week".

The future is the stuff of poetry – poetry about Google.

“I tell you now, that this future is available to all of us, right now. I’m proud to be a part of it. Thank you so much. Thank you so much.".

Thank you, Eric


About Alan Mitchell

Former Editor of Marketing Magazine. Author of Right Side Up and The New Bottom Line. Founder of the Buyer Centric Commerce Forum ( Founder of Ctrl-Shift, whicih researches and advises organisations about consumer empowerment and Mydex a Community Interest Company whose goal is to 'help individuals realise the value of their personal data'.


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