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.