Nicholas Carr, the man who slapped the IT world upside the head by saying IT doesn't matter, is talking to folks about his new book "The Big Switch." Carr told Forbes in a Q&A that Google is heading down the path of artificial intelligence with its search technology.
Carr said that for Google's search engine to cull the best results, "it will eventually have to know what people are thinking, how to interpret language--even the way users' brains operate."
We are a ways from this but this description hews well to the concept of the semantic Web, where the computer is able to figure what we think because it knows how a human thinks. This involves a scientific understanding of not only computers but the way human brains work.
This, of course, is no easy feat. Most analysts say now that Tim Berners-Lee's semantic Web vision will only be realized by a few fractions of what the intent is. But Carr takes what he believes Google's intent to be another, far more creepy step forward.
Carr said Google believes the future of search will involve some "machine mind meld," where users don't have to bang away at a keyboard for information. Instead, they can think of a question, and Google whispers the answer into their ear through their cell phone.
At the risk of sounding paranoid, how the hell would this work? I don't want a person reading my thoughts, let alone a machine. That's just weird. There's no way this would pass any muster on Capitol Hill; privacy advocates would turn murderous.
Extending the mind-meld notion further is the idea that Google is looking to make the machines smarter than people. Carr mentions two scenarios here; either the world's computers networked together, or again, the notion of the mind meld with computers wired into our brains.
This is where reality as we know it today ends and the sci-fi movie scenarios enter into the equation. We can think of nothing but "The Matrix," or "I, Robot" for the networked computer vision. Physical wiring of our computers with our brains is probably the most frightening scenario.
What if the integrated machine decides it wants to control the human host? Goodbye free will, hello enslavement within our own bodies. Carr is keen to point out that the more "human" the search engine supported by the machines becomes, the more money the company will make.
Presumably this will be because the machine will help the search engine more exactly target ads, not by educated guesswork and marketing theory but by scanning our minds for our tastes, hobbies and feelings about a product or service.
At that point, it really does become Google's Earth. Something like this is, from a technological standpoint, many years away. But the chance of the government letting this fly is remote, unless of course, you are a conspiracy theorist and think that the government is secretly working with Google to make this happen.
What do you think? Anyone want to venture a theory?