Is There Any Way to Shove Google Back in the Tube?
For some reason, this morning I wound up reading this article about Google, published six years ago in the London Review of Books. John Lanchester concludes--and remember, this was in 2006:
Putting all this together, we reach the conclusion that, on the one hand, Google is cool. On the other hand, Google has the potential to destroy the publishing industry, the newspaper business, high street retailing and our privacy.
And, why, goodness--that's just what it did! If I'd really grasped this, I probably would have spent the past six years differently.
The best historical analogy for where Google is today probably comes from the time when the railroads were being built. Everyone knew that trains and railways would change the world, but no one predicted the invention of suburbs. Google, and the increased flow of information on which it rides and from which it benefits, is the railway. I don’t think we’ve yet seen the first suburbs.
I think we're beginning to see the suburbs--and they look horrible to me.
While many conservatives are wondering whether the sexual revolution was overall bad for women, I'm much more concerned that Google--and the Internet, generally--have destroyed the publishing industry, the newspaper business, high street retailing and our privacy, with consequences that have certainly been more deleterious to my happiness than the sexual revolution.
I have an ominous feeling about what the death of publishing and newspapers really means, a feeling that may not entirely be connected to the catastrophe it represents for me, personally, although it's hard to say.
As for the death of privacy, I'm dead certain we'll all live to regret that.
What do you think--was the Internet a big mistake?
Update: Thanks, E.J.! We love you!