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Movie Review of “Google and the World Brain”

Google and the World Brain” -- Presented by Polar Star Films; Directed by Ben Lewis; An Official Selection of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. See the movie's website here, and facebook page here. To view the two minute trailer – click here.

Review: Four stars out of four. 

In telling the important untold story of Google’s Herculean and controversial efforts to digitize all the world’s books, Director Ben Lewis’ genius insight was unearthing the fascinating “why?” behind it all – which is Google CEO Larry Page’s deep passion for Artificial Intelligence or “AI.”

Google’s many innovations are well known. What has not been appreciated until the debut of this outstanding documentary film is how Google’s frenetic innovation machine fits together. Ben Lewis effectively offers us a new organizing principle to understand why Google alone has a mission to organize the world’s information – Larry Page’s quest to create an Artificial Intelligence.

In the film, Kevin Kelly, a co-founder of Wired magazine, recounts a prophetic conversation with Google co-founder Larry Page in the earliest years of Google’s existence. He asked Mr. Page “why would anyone want to build another search engine when we have Alta Vista?” Mr. Page responded: “It’s not to make a search engine. It’s to make an AI.” Wow. A lot of things about Google make a lot more sense when one learns Google’s real raison d’être.    

Anyone interested in the future, Google, books, Artificial Intelligence, where science fiction collides with reality, or a culturally-relevant story well told, should see this documentary gem. It will get your mind racing.

It is a fair telling of a controversial story. It piques one’s interest from the start with science-fiction legend, H.G. Wells’, prescient pre-computer-era predictions of a coming “World Brain” comprised of all human knowledge – “a complete planetary memory for all mankind.”

It then captures the original promise of Google’s “moon-shot” idea of Google Books, and the tangible excitement of many of the world’s leading libraries and scholars at Google’s audacious vision, real innovation and major investment in digitizing all the world’s books.

The documentary then circles back to these same luminaries and others to introduce the seeds of controversy that emerged when authors and publishers from around the world objected to their books being copied without their permission and when librarians learned Google had no interest in protecting the privacy of what people may be reading like librarians do.  

Then many who were among the biggest original cheerleaders of Google Books recounted how they turned into opponents when they learned that Google’s proposed Book Settlement would grant Google a de facto commercial monopoly for orphan works and could enable Google to become an extraordinarily powerful gatekeeper over access to the world’s knowledge.

The documentary then comes back to the intro theme of a “World Brain” and concludes with some of H.G. Wells predictions juxtaposed with concerns about the potential dystopian implications of Google’s plans. Simply, the movie gets one’s mind racing about the many implications of a Google world brain.

In short, “Google and the World Brain,” is an important film. It’s a fair, interesting and eye-opening true story. Importantly, it helps us better understand where the billion-user, dominant Internet player we know as Google is going – and where it is taking us…   

To learn more see the movie's website here, and facebook page here; or email: