Google's goal is to make the Star Trek computer commonplace

Apple says its goal is to delight its users, but in reality it's probably closer to continually making the personal computer more personal, more accessible, and ultimately, more human. What then is Google's goal? To index all the world's data? Turns out, it might also be something far more human... and more Star Trek. Farhad Manjoo of Slate writes:

“You already see hints of the Star Trek computer in your phone,” [Amit Singhal, head of Google’s search rankings team] said. “Now we’re trying to get it to a point where it passes the ‘toothbrush test’ of you using it twice a day.” Singhal predicted that will happen in three years’ time—by then, he says, Google’s Star Trek machine will be so good that you’ll ask it a question and expect a correct answer at least twice a day. “And in five years you won’t believe you ever lived without it. You’ll look back at today’s search engine and you’ll say, ‘Is that really how we searched?’” Singhal says. He adds: “These are the best times we’ve ever had in search. I have done this for 22 years, and I've been at Google for 12 years, so I should know. This is the most exciting time—every morning I come into work more excited than ever. Strap in. It's all happening in our lifetimes.”

We can see those hints in Google Search for iOS, which like Apple's Siri takes our voice questions and gives us internet-powered answers. Only much, much faster. Google Now, which tries to predict what we need and hand it to us on cards before we even know we need it, is perhaps an even greater hint.

It's not Kirk or Spock or Bones or Scotty leaning in and asking "Computer" to answer a question, but it's getting closer. And hopefully it's doing so in a way that's really more Star Trek than Skynet, MCP, or Matrix.

Because Google often goes both ways. On one hand, they're an amazing company that seeks to make all the world's data easily, elegantly accessible to everyone, every where. But on the other, they're disingenuous, manipulative, and sometimes seem out to take everyone's data by hook or by crook.

Power corrupts and any corporation sufficiently large is indistinguishable from evil. Yet the future rides on the wings of hope.

I for one very much like the sound of Google's Star Trek dreams. I hope they achieve them, something between Majel Barret and Memory Alpha. And I hope they give it to us in a way that helps us achieve our Star Trek dreams as well.

Source: Slate

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Google's goal is to make the Star Trek computer commonplace


Well..... the Star Trek computer isn't constantly trying to sell you crap. What we really should be saying is, one day we will look back and say, I remember when I could open up Final Cut Pro, Aperture, or Word without banners all over the place. If you don't think it's coming to our desktop programs your crazy. We let it into our (Paid) mobile programs without a fight now its just time until its in our main desktop programs. I still can't believe I can open up mobile non gaming programs which I paid for and get bombarded by banners and purchase request. We will never operate on a society based purely on information until like Star Trek we do away with currency.

What PAID (not in-app purchase) mobile apps do u get banners/ads in?? I don't play games (mobile, pc, or console) & I see u mentioned they weren't games, so we've ruled those out. Now, I'm not trolling u & in no way am I saying your wrong or making something up bc obviously you've seen 'em......I'm just very curious bc I've never seen what your describing on any apps I've purchased over the years & they would def be an immediate uninstall on my device if I saw it, as I agree that it's completely ridiculous.

Yeah just off the top of my head from one I haven't deleted because I use it to much is the (paid) Weather Channel app. I think I paid $1.99 or $2.99 for the app and it constantly has banners for all types of crap that doesn't pertain to the Weather Channel. I know paying for one and then deleting it is still a win for the app developers.

Google Now is the only thing I miss about my Nexus. When you get used to it, you miss it once it's gone. I assume that iOS will never see it

Isn't Siri's integration of Wolfram Alpha already more Star Trek than Google Search? Well, I guess so, I can't say for sure because Wolfram Alpha is still not integrated in other languages than English. And that is the main problem of the described bright future: Automatic translations are still crap for most of the languages. All these speech recognation developments are exclusively for English. How is this Star Trek?

Computer-"Cardfan, you've asked me this everyday since she moved in, how about you stop being a creepy weirdo & actually talk to her"

My favorite part of that scene has always been when Scottie, after being shown the keyboard, begins typing at about 80 wpm. Stuff like that in movies amuses me to no end.

Google wants to be the "mind of god." It wants to be able to follow you where ever you go. They already brag that they can foresee future trends, and can predict where the individual will go before they go. They claim to have a 95% accuracy rating in predicting the individual's movement. I personally do not use any of their products, especially directly. If I have to Google search anything I use, it actually conceals your identity, while piggy backing on Google's algorithm.

Google glasses will make it so you are a spy for Google. Sure you get all kinds of great functions, but everything you see, they see. Every time you look up with them they get a pocket of information about you, where you are, what you are doing, and so on.

We don't make my when Google collects our data, our private data is worth something and if you just give it up without thinking... well then... what are you? And are you comfortable with that? If so... should you be?

First of all, if everything I see, they see, I'm really going to have to up my data cap. And to answer your question. I am a product. I am a product google sells to advertisers. I don't give up this data for nothing though. In exchange for this data I get free web search, free email, a free place to both show and view video content, a simple way for my website to make money, and the list goes on. Should I be a product? I don't know, but I choose to be.

I've been saying for years that Gene Roddenbury fore saw technology that still hasn't been attained. If we look around theres plenty of evidence out there to prove it. Cell phones, tablets, lasers, all the stuff in the medical field. The list is endless.