Londoners woke up to day to find Trafalgar Square had become Trafalgar Green. Unfortunately, it’s only for two days. According to the BBC web site article I live in an urban village. I’d like to believe it. In truth, while there is much to like about living in a cosmopolitan city, I live on a busy street that echoes too often to the sound of police and ambulance sirens and most people are strangers to each other.
Perhaps not for much longer. The front page of today’s Independent newspaper is about Google. Here’s the story*. I find the idea of Google suggesting jobs and activities to me a little creepy.
I am reminded of the tramp in George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, who, resentful at having to sing hymns for his supper, reportely doesn’t disbelieve in God so much as actively dislikes him. I see more people actively disliking Google and taking measures to avoid its all-seeing-eye. Indeed, there’s another article about exactly that in the same paper.
Yes, I’d like a customized news service, but not at any price; this gives the journalists the willies. Google just bought Feedburner, which provides this blog and millions of others as RSS feeds, and it now, along with Microsoft and Yahoo, supports GeoRSS. This will make information feeds findable on maps. No doubt, one of the possible applications will be to better target AdSense adverts.
It will all end up in your phone. But it need not end with advertising. Recently, by chance, we met someone who lives a few minutes walk away and who has been a lifelong friend of someone we’ve known on and off for decades. Would it be fun to have Google introduce you and tell you that you have a friend in common? Or creepy?
And suppose… you allowed Google to let you know when cellphone carrying relations of yours were in town. You could be introduced to distant relations you didn’t know about, or even some very close ones.
Far-fetched? Google has just invested in a small startup that “promises to help consumers understand and browse their own genetic information.” The founder is married to Google founder Sergey Brin. Meanwhile, the cost of sequencing an individual genome was millions, is heading for $1,000, and will likely fall eventually to the cost of a good cup off coffee.
If you could click on a Google map and see where your relations lived, or originated, would you be interested to check for any surprises? Like this one.
Meanwhile, the UK continues as the world’s most aggressive surveillance society and the most genetically fingerprinted (The UK’s DNA database is the largest of any country: 5.2% of the UK population is on the database compared with 0.5% in the USA; source).
*The copy in the Independent is no longer available; a copy in the Belfast Telegraph is linked to.