What Can Government Do That Google Can't?

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TV searches. Wind farms. Self-driving cars. Is there anything Google won't try? Christopher Caldwell at the Financial Times takes note of the tech company's sprawling ambitions, admitting that Google is no longer simply "a competitor of the Yellow Pages or... the operators who answer directory inquiries." Now that the company's ventures include Google Maps, the Android, and a price index that can predict inflation, it's clear that Google is becoming an ever more integral part of the way society works.

Caldwell writes:

It has recently been asserted – and not just by Google's engineers – that the company's search queries can predict flu epidemics as accurately as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and can get an earlier, more accurate reading of unemployment trends than the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Eventually Google will iron out the wrinkles in its inflation measure. What resources will the government then be able to tap that would ever allow it to compete with Google? Should Google's principals be allowed to trade on this information? If Google is better at predicting inflation, unemployment and influenza, it will probably be better at predicting crime, terrorism and political unrest. What government that claims to be vigilant against terrorism would fail to use Google's data?

Caldwell concludes that "the line between Google and government is destined to blur... One way or another, the result will be a closer union between power and specialised knowledge. If the Tea Party movement is enraged at being bossed around by experts, wait till they see what technology has prepared for them next."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.