« The guy who runs the | Home | Introducing the Amy's Robot Link Factory »

June 30, 2003


In a startlingly clueless op-ed

In a startlingly clueless op-ed piece, famously-overrated columnist Thomas Friedman discovers Google. And Wi-Fi! And globalism -- again! In the same column! It's all about the way these things affect the perceived size of the world. He describes Google as "the most popular search engine." Gee, thanks, Tom. Osama and I hadn't heard out here in our cave. Then he launches into an over-extended analogy comparing Google and God. He actually quotes someone as saying "God is wireless", and uses this as part of a syllogism that concludes, practically speaking, that Google is God. (More on that later.) The point of the article, Tom says, is to show that because of Google-via-Wifi, "the world is getting smaller".

He manages to observe this even though, he says, everyone else's feeling "that the world was shrinking from a size medium to a size small...feels over [since 9/11]." What is he thinking here? Nothing about a handful of guys from Saudi Arabia killing 3000 Americans in 2 hours made me think the world was getting any bigger. And his presumptions continue: "While you were sleeping since 9/11..." he audaciously begins a sentence. Who, precisely, has been sleeping since 9/11, in any sense of the word? Are Americans more or less aware of the world around them since then? I imagine that everyone is more aware and alert than any time since WWII, not just of threats but of the issues behind those threats.

So all this leads to his conclusion that networks connect people. Hmm. Good point, professor. It's funny that of all the kinds of networks to discuss -- social, political, economic, or technological -- he chooses Wifi, which doesn't permeate even a sizeable portion of NYC, let alone Afghanistan or Liberia. He says Google+Wi-Fi "means that what people think of us, as Americans, will matter more, not less." Sure, but (a) doesn't everyone already know this, especially since 9/11, and (b) is it really because of the internet that this matters? People become more aware of their hatred of us because they learn about us online? Access to more information = increased hatred? If this is so, why do so many countries -- Iran, China, etc -- do everything possible to cut off the networks? To illustrate his point, he quotes someone as saying that Osama videos, delivered via Wifi, will be effective propaganda tools. So I guess as soon as Osama gets that Wireless Access Point properly configured, we're all in for it. Tom, people don't need Wi-Fi to know the consequences of globalism, for better or for worse, nor do they need it to understand the effects of our foreign policy. The answers are in their air, water, and markets, not online.

This column reminds me of nothing so much as the time a few years ago when he said that guy who ran a mail-order bookstore out of his basement would vanquish Amazon. In both pieces, he somehow manages to simultaneously state the obvious and get it all wrong.

Finally, in case you don't actually read the column, here's the quote comparing Google and God, which is so ridiculous and terrible it sounds made up:

"And with wireless, it means I will be able to find anything, anywhere, anytime. Which is why I say that Google, combined with Wi-Fi, is a little bit like God. God is wireless, God is everywhere and God sees and knows everything. Throughout history, people connected to God without wires. Now, for many questions in the world, you ask Google, and increasingly, you can do it without wires, too."
Tom and Alan Cohen, alleged speaker of the above: does Google know what I'm thinking right now? Is Google that than which nothing greater can be conceived? When you see those fall colors in New England, do you think about Google? (Never mind, for now, the other questions the argument begs: Did Google create the universe? Did Google call out from a burning bush? Did Google die on a cross for our sins?)

Tom, please, for the love of Google, turn off the Tom Friedman Op-Ed Factory™ once in a while, and write something that makes sense.

posted by adm at 12:43 AM | #


Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)