T’was the day after Christmas, with two in the house, celebration postponed us, with the click of a mouse.
The Ruins of Google: My Favorite Painting
On December 26th, 2013 my mother showed me a painting that my step-dad intended as a Christmas present for his close friend.
What I saw was a visual brilliance, a worldwide icon held in the depths of spongy colors. Ironically, you almost had to search for what it was you were seeing. She then proceeded to say something, “When I look at it, I see the ruins of Google, like that would be on a billboard. Everything comes to an end, like ancient Roman ruins.”
I looked at it, and I thought, and looked, and thought, and later when I wasn’t looking at it, I thought about it. The fall of Athens and it’s early philosophies of the democratic forum. I imagined the powerful structures, the legions, the loyalties of society and of the wars that befell them, destroyed them. A battered Colossus. Burned libraries. Feudal ages of knights, peasants and kings… Times when communication was limited to the word of mouth and individual messengers. Eventually: diligent monks, spending lifetimes writing and rewriting books. Soon an artistic enlightenment coupled the invention of a communication tool whose profound influence parallels that of the transistor. The printing press.
Suddenly ideas could spread via text, via paper, mass produced. Publishing was costly, in comparison to today’s standards, but repeatable. A better method of farming could be spread across the land, scholarly ideas of health and longevity thrived, better printing presses were created, industrial revolution spread, modularity succeeded–Modularity of weapon components, of war machines, life taking, as well as life giving, ideas spread.
Two great wars killed multiple millions held steadfast to what they believed in, what their leaders promoted, and what propaganda asserted.
In 1950, the development of an electronic switch became rampant. Understanding the scope and potential of a such a device was far beyond the imagination of those who patented it. It led to logic based electronics, calculators, computers, and shortly thereafter: the internet.
In a mere 50 years, people would be able to communicate via two-way video around the globe whereas 600 years prior, the printing press did not yet exist. Hard drives began to overflow with databased information. I was born the same year as Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). SNMP is a query method, a search language. Ten years later, two Stanford university students created a SNMP company whose name was the misspelling of a large number, 10 followed by 100 zeroes, 10^100, googol.
My step-dad talked to me about Google, asserting that they didn’t make anything, explaining to the 15 year-old-me that it didn’t give anything. I knew he was right, but he suggested their operation was doomed to soon fail. 10 years passed since then, and the company is more profitable than ever.
SNMP enables users to access knowledge for quick use. Rather than having a monarch dehumanize ‘my enemies’, I can much more readily decide my own opinions with cheap and easy communication. Perhaps individuals can be truly democratic in a digital forum, neither requiring figureheads nor crowding of physical forums like those once held in Athens.
So yes, Google is nothing more than an icon and a piece of common trash in humanity’s descent. I’m an optimist though.
The name: Google, defines a knowledge based geist unlike any other in recorded history. So perhaps the artist, my parents, and many of a previous generation view Google as another babylonian tower doomed to rust, fail, and fall. But, but, Google’s foundation is within the billions of users looking out for themselves. The fall of network communication that search engines, of databases, is akin to the destruction of human knowledge.
What an incredible painting.