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Preetam Kaushik Headshot

Is This Paranoia or Is Google Really Planning to Take Over the World?

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There are two types of people in this world - those who believe that Terminator is one of the best sci-fi story arcs ever and those who do not know what good sci-fi is. It's a saga about a dystopian world where machines have taken over the world and mankind is on the brink of extinction. There have been many literary works about the adverse effects of technology and/or robots like Isaac Asimov's 1950 nine story collection I, Robot (which was actually inspired from an earlier short story from 1939 by Earl and Otto Binder), Philip K Dick's Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep that inspired the sci-fi cult film Blade Runner, Martin Caidin's Cyborg and many other works. The common thread tying all of these plots together is how mankind designed its own doom by creating robots. However, reading them was fun because at the end of the day we all knew this was good ol' science fiction, the keyword being fiction.

But did all of these works combine to form a self-fulfilling prophecy? People who started companies like Google, Amazon, Boston Dynamics are all bona fide sci-fi geeks who grew up on these novels and movies. So it is only natural that names such as Jeff Bezos (Amazon, Inc.), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google), Andy Rubin (Android) and many others are ushering in what they would like to call a "brave new world" where automation is the way forward. They might do so while collaborating or competing with each other but that remains to be seen. But the seeds of that new world have already been sown.

Amazon recently announced Amazon Prime Air, a future project that is currently in the R&D stage. Bezos says the selling point of this drone based delivery service would be its 30 minutes delivery service. Talk about receiving your online purchase reaching you before you receive your Chinese delivery, right? Well folks, the name of the tech race is one-upmanship and so Google wasn't far behind. But their M.O. was not so much of a publicity event as it was like a covert CIA mission. Only the people who follow Google press releases religiously might know that they recently hired ex-Android head Andy Rubin whose primary responsibility in the company would be to oversee the robotics division of Google, which includes companies Google has purchased in rapid succession over the last year. Think of all the well known robotics companies that made recent breakthroughs and there's a chance that most of them are under Google new roster - Boston Dynamics (which used DARPA funding to design BigDog - a quadruped robot designed for the US military), Meka Robotics (they designed a "bipedal robot for human-centered hyper-agility") and Japanese robotics company and winner of the 2013 DARPA Robotics challenge, Schaft, Inc.

While Amazon's drone based delivery system sound more realistic as they only need to wait for Federal Aviation Rules to allow them to take off, Google's idea is closer to a sci-fi like idea - they want to introduce robots on land as delivery tools. Do not make the mistake of imagining roomba-like devices delivering you your goods, but actual android figures like we saw in once T-800 open his flesh in Terminator 2 to reveal the exoskeleton underneath.

This brings me to the final and perhaps the most important point - where is Google going with all of this? There's a huge group of people all over the world that believes that Google ultimately wants to take over the world. There actually is a site called GoogleWorldDomination.com! But conspiracy theories aside, just think of it - Google already owns Gmail, YouTube, Orkut, Android, GoogleDrive, Chrome and is the most used search engine. Everything personal in nature that you have shared in any of these is stored somewhere. Every time you browse the net while logged in to your Gmail, you receive ads on the side that are have specifically chosen for you based on your online activity. Truly, for many of us, Google knows us better than our own mothers. Now that is scary.

If you're still not alarmed, just know that all of these innovations will be normalized as the years pass. The 1995 cult thriller, Strange Days, about the end of the last millennium with all of the Y2K hoopla, featured a device through which you could experience other people's memories. This device looked eerily similar to Google Glass. If you were to watch the film, you wouldn't even think twice of it, but back in the nineties, the idea was quite revolutionary. What I'm really scared of is that I will keep on living my life, logging in and out of our accounts and suddenly there will be a robot at my doorstep, addressing me by my first name, reminding me that I almost forgot my birthday.