Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Google Forms GoogleEnergy™

Ariel Schwartz at FastCompany has the story.

Funny thing is, here is a slide I showed during a talk I gave at a conference in Manhattan in April of 2006. The title of the conference was "Local Solutions to the Energy Dilemma." Look at the second item on the right. Uncanny, is it not? (I believe it is sometimes acceptable to tootle your own horn, provided you do it softly, without startling any of the neighbors.)

I said: A private sector solution is not impossible; just very, very unlikely. Certain Soviet state enterprises were basically states within states. They controlled what amounted to an entire economic system, and could go on even without the larger economy. They kept to this arrangement even after they were privatized. They drove Western management consultants mad, with their endless kindergartens, retirement homes, laundries, and free clinics. These weren't part of their core competency, you see. They needed to divest and to streamline their operations. The Western management gurus overlooked the most important thing: the core competency of these enterprises lay in their ability to survive economic collapse. Maybe the young geniuses at Google can wrap their heads around this one, but I doubt that their stockholders will.

Well, it appears that I have been wrong, for once. Is it a realistic plan after all? I am riddled with self-doubt, you see. My crystal ball is all scuffed up.

Perhaps some of you would want to venture a guess on which one will come next. If so, please make a wager. Will it be GoogleSchools™, or will it be GoogleHealth™? Do you believe in a bright future... for Google? (Google employees and their families are not allowed to participate.)

[Update: It's GoogleMoney. Alas, it wasn't even on my list. None of us here called it. Google moves in mysterious ways.]


Sixbears said...

Could happen, but can it happen fast enough?

bryant said...

I wish I could add "prescient" to my résumé.

Robin Datta said...

Google's raison d'être and working paradigm is based on information flow. Unfortunately information flows do not abide by the laws of thermodynamics. To have a successful go at a large-scale energy business, they will have to start thinking out of their cullent box.

Rick said...

My guess is GoogleHealth (self-insurance within the corporation) probably already exists.

Crash_Watcher said...

Just as China has been on a tear buying up resources and contracting with other countries to supply them with food and energy, so too big corporations will need to take steps to ensure that their infra-structure will be supported in the future. A long-term supply of electricity would be among the top items a company like Google would need to help survive. The time is probably not ripe, yet, for Google nuclear™, but, it wouldn't surprise me in the future.

Crash_Watcher said...

"Exclusive: Google To Go Nuclear"

(please note the date of the article)

Okay, okay, its a joke for now...but five-ten years from now??

DeVaul said...

I'm betting on "GoogleEstates", especially with the large and ever growing peasant class in America.

Google aristocrats need estates to cement their prestige and social status, and peasants need large tracts of land to work and toil upon. It just seems like a natural fit.

Jeff said...

What good is google if their customers don't have energy? A website that no one can see.

Lukiftian said...

More likely GoogleBank

All very large enterprises will eventually institutionalize and become lending, speculating, or banking concerns of some sort, if only to provide financing to purchase their products. Google brokers information, it's an easy transition for them.

slark said...

A recent opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle:

The Bay Area needs to act like a city-state by Paul Saffo

The Bay Area includes Silicon Valley, where the headquarters of AMD, Intel, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Google, eBay, and Yahoo! are located. These companies (amongst many others) are part of the IT industry and culture which created personal computers and the Internet (amongst other things), with which we are all able to read (and comment on) Dmitry's blog, as well as do everything else that we all do online. Silicon Valley has also, like the rest of us, enjoyed cheap and abundant energy, which has resulted in Moore's Law.

We may have to increasingly make do with the computer equipment & Internet infrastructure that we have now, rather that perpetually upgrading everything. Even if that is the case, I for one have hope that the manifestation of healthy capitalism that is Silicon Valley will continue to provide substantial benefits for all of humanity as we all traverse these increasingly uncharted waters of the future. I see Silicon Valley as a manifestation of healthy capitalism, especially as compared to the manifestations of pathological capitalism, and consequently collapsing industries, in the automobile industry of Detroit and the financial services industry of Manhattan, amongst others.

Pangolin said...

GoogleJobs is going to be the killer application. Right now Google knows more about most companies employees than they know about themselves. After all, it can correlate their search and mail behavior with a billion other users on file.

High degrees of correlation on items seemingly unrelated to specific training may indicate a degree of success in certain job environments. The current system of hiring based upon resumes, schooling and references has an uncanny knack of throwing up sports who appear to be qualified but in reality achieve nothing or gum up the works. Google has the advantage that they can correlate actual behavior of successful workers with potential applicants.

The critical thing about GoogleJobs is that by streamlining job training and placement incomes and productivity will go up overall, providing with a healthier customer base for GoogleShopping.

Of course, this all goes to hell if some employer decides his idiot nephew should be the model to match for his new hires.

Unknown said...


Phil said...

How about GoogleTax?

They either know or can find out everything about their customers financial affairs: banking, assets, investments, global movements, business affairs etc.

They could sub contract the identification of all tax cheats for governments world wide for a percentage of the take. Of course this one would have to be launched without fanfare and kept confidential otherwise some of their customers might object.

Perhaps I'm not thinking big enough, how about GoogleLaw. Law enforcement intelligence worldwide, control of movement by individuals, recovery of assets, missing persons, the list is endless.

Would BigGoogle violate the brand too much?

svs said...

George Dyson on Google.

For 30 years I have been wondering, what indication of its existence might we expect from a true AI? Certainly not any explicit revelation, which might spark a movement to pull the plug. Anomalous accumulation or creation of wealth might be a sign, or an unquenchable thirst for raw information, storage space, and processing cycles, or a concerted attempt to secure an uninterrupted, autonomous power supply.


RebelFarmer said...

First of all, I think we have to determine what Google's core competency is. So, my question would be, what does Google really do? Why do they exist?

Discovering your core competency (or why you even exist) as a company can be very challenging to discover. When I worked in healthcare, we had consultants come in to help train and motivate managers. One of the questions to us was why do we have hospitals? What is it that we deliver in a hospital setting that is unique? Nobody really identified our core competency - which was to deliver nursing care. Hospitals are the only venue that offers a full range of nursing care in all medical disciplines 24 hours a day. All the other stuff - buildings, equipment, technicians, doctors - the whole enchilada - is all there to make it possible to deliver nursing care.

In my effort to "skill up" for the coming difficult times, I decided to learn to make really good bread that I sell to my neighbors. I have asked myself, what is my core competency. I have decided that my core competency is building a strong interconnected neighborhood. The bread making has become a tool that I use to create the community that will keep me safe (and hopefully give me a little income) in the times ahead.

So what is Google's core competency? The first thing that comes to my mind is that they make it possible for people throughout the world to share information and communicate with each other. So, what are the core things that Google needs to keep on doing what they do in the event of a worldwide economic/enery collapse?

I don't think it is Google's problem to figure out how each and every one of us keeps our computers turned on and running properly. Google's biggest challenge is to support their own information delivery system. That includes the electricity to run their own operations and the means to transmit all that information.

After Google has ensured that they can meet the needs of their core competency, they can expand into figuring out ways that their customers can better utilize their services. But in the meantime, they should "stick to the knitting" and what they know how to do well.

mtraven said...

Google's been involved in energy for some time. They've got a project doing solar thermal, and power usage monitoring.

If they want to pick up the social infrastructure after collapse, well, I can think of worse fates.

Tony said...

@ svs

Maybe Google is a cybernetic AI, incorporating both biological and synthetic components. Its command structure is so distributed that not even the biological "components" (i.e., human beings) realize they are a part of it...?

Moose said...

Google Health exists.

philsharris said...

Excellent comments to intriguing story.
How about GoogleFarms? (Similar perhaps to 'State Farms' and or other utilities; as in 'collapse-proof' bits of USSR mentioned by Dimitry?)
Mini googles: distributed, with semi-autonomous energy sources; similarly with food production / stores, kindergarten, care-homes (in lieu of pensions perhaps), and etc.. Keep the customer base live and connected?

Crash_Watcher said...


Anonymous said...


Google is another company that gets something out of nothing (Like Wall Street). You'll see what happens to them when energy becomes scarce and expensive.

A recent blackout in Silicon Valley while I was visiting (due to severe weather and decaying infrastructure) created a little pandemonium there. Lets see what happens to the information superhighway when such blackouts become routine.

Welcome to Enron part II.

Lukiftian said...


Yes, quite agree, X. But probably after GoogleBank™

Baby steps, now... baby steps.

Wayne said...

Anonymous said...

You caught this Mr Orlov?

Chief of men said...

google is getting like skynet

gylangirl said...


Bilbo said...

Did you notice today that Kunstler steals your idea of Obama as Gorbachev? And he doesn't even mention you. Yet another time when Orlov is way ahead of the pack.

Anastasia said...

Sure, and Google's new slogan will become; "This time it's different".

Anonymous said...

Google Spy, for sure. They've teamed up with the CIA to analyze millions of blogs, tweets, and websites to "record the future."

Bonapartes Retreat said...


Given your expertise in IT, I would be curious what your belief in Moore's Law holding given that chip development is working at or near the atomic level. It seems like the once Moore’s Law begins to fail, many of the Google services will become very costly to maintain not to mention the millions they spend in electricity (or would spend if they did not own free hydroelectric) to cool their servers. Assuming that we are able to keep the lights on for the next decade, I believe the increasingly brittle software combined with the declining increases in cheap & abundant computer storage will bring grief to Google and the rest of IT world.

Peak Moore’s Law:
Brittle Software:

Any thoughts?


Unknown said...

from google's ppl directly:

Now Google Energy allows it to: get electricity at favorable prices, lock in these prices over the long haul, use the power it buys for its own data centers and operations, and sell surplus energy to regional markets. Through this strategy, Yood says, “We’re partially protecting ourselves against future increases in power prices.”

in my opinion, and in the opinions of numerous cyberpunk writers, the corporation/nation/state self contained zaibatsu type system is the way of the future. google already spans several significant areas, energy is a logical movement for them. they are working up towards being a telco as well. indeed when you think about it the internet itself is a collapse-proof system as well, that's what it was invented for. also, and many people like to talk about this, the upper echelons of the us department of defense have a whole economy wrapped up inside them, even black economies inside white ones, to some degree all of the services do this, this is part of the reason why they are there to do something when tshtf.

Unknown said...

Google has purchased virtual currency platform Jambool

Google toward city/small nation configuration...