My friend Colinksi dropped me a link about a Google employee who spoke out against Michael Moore‘s new film, Sicko. The whole topic sets me ill at ease, because I’m so in love with Google. I’m usually quite happy to ignore the unobtrusive ads when using all of their free, powerful tools. I don’t think it could’ve been much more than five years ago when someone first clued me in that Google searches provide results that are hands and feet above any other search engine, and now I am a dyed-in-the-wool Google fanatic. I’ve been using Gmail for less than eighteen months and can’t really imagine (or remember) what life was like without it. I have Gmail and Google maps applications on my phone, and the terms “Mapquest” and “Yahoo maps” baffle me. (Coincidentally, it is now possible to customize your driving route on Google maps by grabbing the route and dragging it to where you want it to go. Genius!) My blog is powered by Google, I have Google toolbars in my web browsers, I send text messages to Google to find restaurants and movies, I use Picasa to manage my photos and Picasaweb to share them. Sure, I haven’t quite been sold on “Documents and Spreadsheets” yet, and I don’t particularly care for the “Street View” thing. And I nearly forgot to mention Google calendars, which are just as user-friendly and powerful as just about everything else Google does. It will even email me a daily agenda if I ask it, or I can just view a very handy mobile agenda on my cell. And finally, there is the Google Reader, which makes it possible for me to get all my news in one place, and even to share articles I enjoyed with my blog readers (see the “Recommended Reading” bars at the top and bottom of my blog). What’s not to love? Web 2.0 is fantastic!
But this woman taking shots at Michael Moore on her blog hints at the dark underbelly of the otherwise benevolent and providential Google. They have to make money to keep providing me with lots of free stuff, and they make that money selling ads. Ads are great when it comes to things we really need or want. But ads aren’t really meant to just let us know what’s available; they’re meant to create a demand for products, regardless of whether or not anyone really needs or wants those products. But this gets me back to one of the things I like about Google: the ads are unobtrusive. So many websites have big Flash animated ads that jump out in front of the text I try to read. Ads, of course, are often very catchy and attractive. There must be legions of talented people creating them. What would happen if these people could use their talents for work that was more useful or enriching to themselves and humanity? Well, with Google’s relevant text-only ads, I trust that the smart and creative folks aren’t wasting their time trying to sell garbage. But somehow they still ended up with a person who thinks that a profit-driven health care system doesn’t do more harm than good. “Do No Harm,” as they say. The offending blog entry makes reference to philanthropy and charity and whatnot done by these health care companies, apparently without ever making the simple logical deduction that perhaps if our health care system wasn’t for-profit, there would be no need for health-related philanthropy or charity.
Anyway. The point is, I hope Google doesn’t become evil. All this great free shit they give me makes me feel like socialism really is possible.