I have given this post the same title as the article published at earth2tech by Katie Fehrenbacher on January the 7th - “Google Energy” Subsidiary: What’s Google Up To? partly as I cannot think of a better way to say it, and mostly in appreciation of the question finally being asked.
Quotation by John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902). The historian and moralist, who was otherwise known simply as Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
I had the dubious honor of being on the inside as Microsoft eliminated their partner IBM with OS2 (for those who can remember) and then Netscape to own the browser market. First the operating system, and then what it controlled. In the last few years we have been informed via anti-trust settlements of the abuse of this control. We probably do not know a half of what actually took place. But innovation was stifled, now Windows 7 (5 years later) has had to get better - but what a way to learn!
So when will we pay attention to history?
If we think that Microsoft had control of us through the operating system that ran our PC, take a step back and think of the control Google has over us in being the channel for the information we receive. You can go all the way back to the 3rd century and the church to look at the abuses of power by the control of information. They are called the dark ages for a reason.
Technically, we have some safety in the fact that Google can no more tweak a page and the rules of where it will appear in their search rankings, than I can. But, lets be clear, 87.5% of the traffic Open4Energy receives by means of a search, is from a Google search. The question is not; if Google has control? It is; how will they use their control?
In my opinion this is DANGEROUS indeed!
The issue is not in the founders intentions. From all I read, I believe that they have the best of intentions to sincerely do no evil. I applaud them in this intent. Further, I have seen examples of their refusal to engage in altering information, even when it might seem they should. But this does not change the facts. What they have built has the potential for a level of abuse that is quite frightening should things get out of hand.
Consider the subject of scam products to help consumers save energy! A subject Open4Energy exposes through the Directory of Energy Scams we publish. Google "magnetic energy generation" - an interesting concept as a renewable energy source. All looks OK - 1 million plus results, plenty ads being served for apparently "useful solutions"
NOW - Google "open4energy magnetic energy generation"
You will see the difference, for it is 95% one big scam, the content is from over 100 web sites established for the single purpose of misleading you and manipulating the Google search result algorithm, millions of dollars are being poured into nothing, and every link of the chain drinking off the foolishness of unwitting consumers.
I sincerely ask any publisher of content on electricity/energy who also serves ads from Google adSense to block sites like this in the adSense account!
Google make money on each click, the 1000's of publishers in their network make money on every click (as do Google on these also) and consumers either waste their time if they are lucky and see into the SCAM, or pay for the plans - perpetuating this insanity. Despite all we have done to speak to Google, or get the RIGHT information into the "system" of Google information distribution - we continue to struggle. Google rightly have responded "it cannot “regulate the internet” - so they sit between a rock and a hard place - they own the information distribution and MAY not touch it.
The market will self regulate, the system does work, but it is taking far too long. We are all so busy on our own issues, looking up and seeing what it means to serve a scam ad as a publisher is not on the "must do" list.
As an aside, if you are not sure about the quality of search results, add "open4energy" if it is on energy saving and get some safe content into the mix, or "earth2tech" and see what Katie has to say about the topic.
Back to our opinion on Google and electricity supply.
Think of what is to be in the next few years. The smart grid will be in place, energy use information will be wireless received by each home owner and forwarded to the Google software - Google PowerMeter. We will do this to receive the community value of comparing our use with another, trends and so on. It will be free to us, so why will we not use it, and save on our bill, and feel good about ourselves.
With the knowledge of who is using what energy across the globe, the control of what information is searched for will be small compared to the knowledge of how the most essential of all human resources, energy, is used. We can survive without information, or we can add terms like "open4energy or earth2tech or Katie Fehrenbacher" to our requests for information, and protect ourselves - but what will we do when it comes to the supply of electricity.
I can persuade you to search differently, and in time I believe we will all search more prudently, but are you ready to get inside your electrical system and really understand the intricacies of your electrical use.
What happens if Google decides that California needs to reduce energy use in a heat wave so that Google can get a better price for the electricity they generate from a solar farm. who decides what is the best use of what energy and what we pay for it? I am OK if we decide it is Google, but I suggest we think carefully on this first? We allowed the banks, motivated by profits and share prices decide what money instruments were appropriate, until the United States economy was brought to an almost collapse. Pick you political side, it was a good thing the government could intervene for a time and stabilize things. If we want Google to have the knowledge to control energy, I suggest we do NOT let them also have the incentive to deliver it!
There will always be times we ask a fox to watch our chickens, but may I suggest we keep a watchful eye on what Mr Fox is really up to!
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