Marissa Mayer Discusses SkyNet… er, Google

21 minutes into this video, Kevin Rose asks Google’s Vice President of Search Product and User Experience, Marissa Mayer “Is Google Skynet?” on behalf of someone who asked the question online and 182 people who voted for that question.

Her first two words are “Uhhhh.. Well…. :D”

There are a lot of people that think Google is SkyNet. What’s SkyNet?

Skynet (Terminator): In the fictional Terminator universe, Skynet is a computer software-based defense system created by humans in the late 20th century.

In the Terminator storyline, Skynet gains sentience shortly after it is placed in control of all of the U.S. military’s weaponry. When they realize that it has become self-aware, and what the computer control is capable of, the human operators try to shut the system down. It retaliates and believes humans are a threat to its existence, it then employs humankind’s own weapons of mass destruction in a campaign to exterminate the human race.

The obvious parallel with Google is that every time you turn around, Google’s acquired another company or created or announced a new product. The bottom line is data. Information. Evidence of connections. The attempt to predict patterns… purchasing tendencies… communications networks… social trends…

Why is data important? Because we have moved from interpersonal conversation to Pony Express… From letters to phone calls… From phone calls to email… From email to text messages… From text messages to instant messages… From instant messages to transparent communications via apps/sites like Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook… Now, we’re moving into audio and video communications via Oovoo, Skype, Ustream, LiveStream… It’s all data. It’s all information. It all says something about us and the people we interact with and the products we buy or avoid. Someday, it will be aggregated into a meaningful report which will be used by whomever figures it out to make a lot of money.

An example of how this works is Facebook. Instead of hiding my status, I’ve declared myself “single” on Facebook, so they use that information to send me an endless stream of “dating” and “meet women of such and such a type” advertisements on the right side of my screen. I can look forward to at least 60 such ads on any given day, being that they fit 3 on a page. How did they know I might be interested in women available for sex? Because I clicked “single” for status and “women” as far as interests. Elementary… Peep it for yourself:

Look At Facebook Being Nosey!

The reason this is useful is that in order to sell things to people on the internet, you need to be able to prove demographics to a reasonable degree. You have to be able to say to a potential advertiser “I can place your ad for single women in front of 40,000 guys who are looking for girls [who are looking for guys] in this amount of time, for which you will owe me this amount of money”. This is why they want you to use their services, so they can collect data on what you like, what you use, what you endorse, what you dislike, who you follow and who follows you. The “following” part indicates social networks as well as potential spheres of influence.

To go off on a tangent for a second… This is why some people were really hoppin’ mad over Twitter’s “Suggested User List”. At the time that I checked out this list, there was a CAT (like, somebody’s actual pet) on this list, and President-Elect Barack Obama was NOT on this list (Though Al Gore was). People were (and probably still are) mad about this because they weren’t chosen to be ON this list and their standings as influential people on Twitter plummeted faster than people’s bank accounts who had invested money with Bernie Madoff.

Suddenly, people who had ZERO standing in the fishbowl whatsoever were getting thousands and in some cases TENS OF THOUSANDS of new followers on a daily basis. The people who used to be able to press their chests out at having 60,000 followers had to sit there and watch as people raced towards 1 Million followers and beyond. What difference did this make? The people with tens of thousands of followers were looking forward to leveraging that and being seen as influential people in the Twitter space. They’re still way more influential than I am, with my current 2,604 followers, but they’ve been entirely eclipsed by the people that get followers almost as quickly as Twitter gets new users.

I wanted to bring this up because I was having a vigorous discussion today with a friend of mine who’s a rabid conspiracy theorist and she really sparked me to talk about this stuff. The fact of the matter is that the price of admission to any of these sites is giving them direct access to information about the people you know, products and sites you use and your likes & dislikes. When you click “like” on Facebook, that’s recorded. When you click “favorite” on Twitter, that’s recorded. When you follow someone or someone follows you, that’s recorded. The real question here is whether you can afford to be involved or you can afford to NOT be involved…

g1, Bill & FloThere’s an easy way not to have your information collected and utilized… Don’t do JACK on the internet. For some people, this is the solution. Don’t put the data out there and you won’t have to worry about it. That’s not the solution for me, personally. According to Google Analytics, Google was responsible for 6,291 of my visits last month, which is 65.48% of the 9,555 total visits to my site. I am fully entrenched and willing to sink or swim on the internet with SkyNet. 😀 I even went out and bought the G1 Google Phone as the picture to the left just so happened to catch rebooting… even though that was more because of the Android platform and physical keyboard than my stellar Google search result standings.

Ultimately, conspiracy or not, it’s clear that we’re trending towards MORE information being available about everyone rather than less. We’re all communicating with each other more through digital, collectable means. We used to use tokens, now we use MetroCards. We used to have bank books, now we have ATM Cards. We used to write checks, now we have Credit Cards. We have data plans on our computers AND our phones. We socialize with each other more ON the internet than off. It’s way easier and way more efficient than getting on trains and planes and actually going to other states, countries and continents where our friends live. More and more socializing that was done OFFline is now being done ONline. Same thing goes for business. For example I can now share my computer’s screen with clients via the internet instead of having to travel to edit for them or train them on-site.

With or without you, SkyNet’s on the move! 😀 The decision YOU have to make is whether you’re going to get with the program and go with the flow or keep your information to yourself and do things the old fashioned way. When I traveled to Delaware… (Delaware), I met a bus driver who was also a prize-winning Chicken Farmer. I guarantee you that he’s not interested in SkyNet AT. ALL! 😀 However, his business doesn’t depend on the internet. People need to eat. People like to each chicken. People like eggs. He’s going to get paid regardless of what Google does…

Can you say the same thing?

~ Bill Cammack | @BillCammack

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