Up until a century and a half ago, a company ruled over most of the planet. To push it further back, in 1631, just 31 years after its formation, it had a net worth of around 78 million Dutch Guilderland which, if adjusted to 2012 dollars, would come out to be $7.4 trillion. This was the East India Company. Started as a trading company, it soon expanded into an empire that controlled the systems that governed millions. Today, there’s only one company that has the capacity to enslave millions, just like the EIC did, but unlike the East India Company, it may not have the need to control any governing body. For it already has the potential to govern each and every individual.
Google is perhaps the most omnipotent company out there. And more importantly, it has the exact tools that are required to undertake world domination. When British East India Company’s sail soared in all seas, it had the necessary tools required at that era. Gunpowder, rifles, ships, money and the pride of conceived racial superiority become all too powerful for any kingdom to pose any resistance. Google today wields a power that can cause even greater disruption.
It’s the power of information.
The idea of possessing godly abilities is a lucrative one. However, less so when such abilities are handed over to another individual that is not you. If such an individual is a part of your social sphere, such an idea becomes all the more menacing. For now, he/she possesses the ability to subjugate you. He/she could know where you are, what you like, what’s your routine, all your personal information and even what you do when nobody’s watching. Such is the power of Google today. What makes it akin to a God and not a dictator is the fact that it offers whatever one wants and in return, absorbs all the information it can. People confess worse secrets to this search engine tool than they would ever do to their closest of friends, family members or even lovers. If there’s anyone who knows most about what’s going around in the world, then it’s Google.
The subtleties of the ways in which Google operates makes it even more powerful and thus, potentially dangerous. Unlike the East India Company which was feared by all but loved by few, Google is happily embraced by everyone. It is where we go for a piece of advice, who tells us directions when we are lost and suggests which article is most relevant to us for leisure reading. In short, it acts as a self-embraced counsel to every child-elder around the world.
The only thing that it lacked was a total consciousness of self, but now, even that is becoming a checkbox soon to be ticked. Google is actively investing in its Artificial Intelligence Programmes. The company’s CEO himself announced that the company has now changed its gears from a ‘mobile first’ space to ‘AI First’ world. As it enters the world of AI, Google may get the conscience it lacks for now. If that happens, it may no longer be a tool to search for solutions to our problems. It may become a solution in itself!
Money and muscle
Speaking in terms of absolute monetary power, Google’s net worth was about $527,000,000,000 in 2015. That’s around the combined worth of 5 Bill Gates. While that’s surely a lot, East India Company’s worth at its peak was that of about 100 Bill gates combined. So yes, Google does lag behind in terms of sheer monetary strength. Coming to muscle, Google does not have any active military force required to take over the world.
But then again, as the world moves ahead in an era where direct military conflict can easily become a trigger to collective annihilation, where cyber warfare and propaganda reap much better results at a far lower cost, such material possessions are not necessarily required. As the world continues to become more and more reliant on Google, the greater the chances become of this reliance turning into compliance and in the third and final stage- subjugation.
Can the God be tamed?
Recently, Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google was called before the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing. What was supposed to be an illuminating slash inspiring discussion, turned out to be a hackneyed, painful discourse on things the politicians did not understand and Mr. Pichai could not explain.
Similar was the case in another tech hearing featuring Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder, and CEO of Facebook. However, it’s not just the hearings that are an opportunity to put a leash on the ever-expanding nature of big tech companies like Facebook or Google. The DOJ of United States can control their market (and therefore life) presence by curtailing the number and nature of acquisitions these companies indulge in. For example, for of the most popular apps we use are owned by a single company. Whatsapp, Messenger, Facebook, and Instagram are all owned by Facebook. Ever since Google acquired YouTube in 2006, the company has seen tremendous growth.
This very nature of acquisitions, or rather- the practice of acquiring or killing any company that grows out of infancy in a world dominated by these giants, should be curtailed. Or else, we can brace ourselves for world domination like that of the East India Company, albeit, one we don’t even realize is happening!
Picture Credits : theverge