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Google's problem with having an algorithm for a soul...

Kudos to the Wall Street Journal for a highly-illuminating page-one story: "Google under fire over controversial site" because it provides a rare window into the soul of the company who's purported company's motto is "Don't be evil." 

At its core, Google is a "math cult" of mathematicians/computer scientists whose core belief is that most any problem can eventually be solved by one of Google's cutting-edge computer algorithms. 

  • Google algorithmic prowess and focus has built the world's best search engine algorithm, with 400 plus variables, and it has also built the world's best online-advertising algorithm business, producing revenue growth twice that of its industry.
  • Moreover, Google co-founder Sergy Brin has said the "perfect search engine would be like the mind of God."

A big theme I have written about with Google is that it has a culture of "innovation without permission" which I have translated to mean there are few internal controls or little adult or human supervision at Google.

The Wall Street Journal article provides an outstanding case study of this point -- that Google cares little about the non-algorithmic aspects of technology and/or business.

  • In other words, Google routinely does not plan, prepare for, or invest in internal controls or consumer/user safeguards in launching new businesses. It obviously believes its easier to clean up any messes -- after the fact. 

Well the mess Google created with its Orkut social networking site which is extremely popular in Brazil, is quite a mess indeed as documented by the WSJ.    

  • "...Thiago Tavares Nunes de Oliveira, a 28-year-old Brazilian law professor who wrote the graphic report and has crisscrossed Brazil making the case that Google allowed Orkut to become a redoubt of criminal activity, including child pornography and racist speech."
  • On Google's Orkut: "Criminal elements also connected with each other and recruited sympathizers on the site, including neo-Nazis, organized gangs and pedophiles. Mr. Tavares says in one year he recorded thousands of pages related to pedophilia."

Equally interesting was Google's algorithmic-auto-pilot treatment of Orkut and its near total lack of care and management oversight for this explosively growing business in Brazil.

  • "As recently as the middle of 2005, Google had just three employees in Brazil."
  • "But the young lawyer says Google gave him the brush-off. He says Mr. Hohagen, the head of Google's Brazil operation, didn't reply to several requests for meetings. In early 2006, Mr. Tavares gave a Google press officer a CD containing 220 pages of evidence of alleged Orkut crimes. He never heard back."  

This deaf-ear and blind-eye to anything non-algorithmic, with Orkut in Brazil is not an isolated incident but part of a clear business pattern by Google of ignoring serious human/legal problems (like privacy, copyright violations, fraud and click fraud) until they burst into the press and have to be dealt with. The evidence of Google's "algorithmic soul" is mounting: 

 Bottom line: Google has become an amazing technology and business wonder because it has an "algorithmic soul."

  • At the same time, Google has proven to be a lousy corporate citizen, when it comes to respecting and caring about other people and "non-quantifiable values" that people care deeply about like: privacy, safety, security, property rights, protection from internet corruption etc. 
  • It seems increasingly apparent, that if it can't be automated and run on Google's server "cloud" -- what good is it? Why spend money or "cycle time" on it?
    • Rather than "don't be evil" I would suggest that Google's actions tell us Google's real motto is "algorithms rule."
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