Google and the Battle of Man vs. Machine

 A NoBo Persepctive

By Matt Laidlaw

Google’s recent privacy change has got me thinking about the mega-computer and the battle of man vs. machine. There’s a great film from legendary French director Jean Luc-Godard.  Alphaville was groundbreaking futuristic satire in 1965, with an often repeated theme in modern Hollywood vis a vie The Terminator and Matrix series.  The tale is simple; destroy the machines that will ultimately destroy mankind.  Alphaville Poster

In Alphaville, the central character, Lenny Caution (played by American Eddie Constantine,) is sent to the planet Alphaville on a seek and destroy mission – rescue his fellow secret agent and eliminate the Alpha60 supercomputer which controls all of Alphaville and it’s evil creator Professor von Braun.

Now, with Godard one of the major influencers of the French New Wave and very anti-Hollywood, this is a film school staple for its use of 1960’s Paris as a backdrop.  No computer generated images, no crazy back lot sets, no green-screen.  It’s a great take and a great laugh for anyone who loves science fiction mixed with Humphrey Bogart detective films.

What’s eerie is the subtlety of how this one film from the 1960’s predicts our lifestyle now.  Last week Google announced a big change in their privacy policies.  According to Google, (which any user of Google received the 3am email,) they are  “Getting rid of over 60 different privacy policies across Google and replacing them with one that’s a lot shorter and easier to read. Our new policy covers multiple products and features, reflecting our desire to create one beautifully simple and intuitive experience across Google.”

While we are very concerned about banks sharing information about us, or the ability for hackers to get our credit card or social security information are we really concerned about Google keeping track of where we go on the Internet, what we read or talk about or whom we talk to?

In a way, considering all we do on the Internet, using Google at any moments notice there is an eerie, big brother feeling.  While I don’t think that we’ll actually curb any behavior, this does get me thinking that Google can watch every step that I make.  If I do a search on a restaurant or shop, go to that restraunt or shop and check on on Google+ about that shop.  It’s weird to have all that information out there instantaneously.

Marketing companies have been tracking customers for decades, unless you live in a cave, you have some sort of buyer profile – whether it’s your Stop and Shop discount card or your account, there’s a profile of you somewhere.

What is really concerning is that Google can now put a name, picture and truly advanced and detailed profile of you.  With more 90% of the 10,000 personal data requests made by the US government to Google each year approved, this treasure-trove of information may be ripe for picking. Our very own Alpha60 supercomputer.

So what’s really going to change?  Well… a lot! You talk about a certain shampoo on Google+, talk about a TV Show, movie or piece of music, Google will be able to target specific ads search results in the hope this personalized touch drives users to integrate Google into its daily online life in every way.

Basically, we have two options: we can confront the supercomputer that is Google or we re-think what we truly consider private in this digital age. We’re more than happy to promote ourselves on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and countless other social media sites.

And how much do you hate it when you’re watching television or searching online, getting bogged down by inane commercials or and results? Wouldn’t it be nice to search for something or watch a YouTube or Hulu video where the commercials and results may actually be about something I’m interested in reading about or even buying?

 In Alphaville Lenny Caution confronts the supercomputer, portrayed by a gigantic flashing light and in the end (spoiler alert) completes his mission.

Like Lenny, I could dress up in my trenchcoat and travel in my Mustang to Google headquarters, but will I actually be able to save my friend (my privacy) and destroy the power that is the Google? 

 While I’m certainly not saying we should carelessly throw our caution about our privacy into the wind, I know that Google will ultimately do what they want to do at the end of the day. As long as they continue to offer fast, relatively secure information, I think I can love this Google supercomputer. So, why not adapt?

Matt Laidlaw can be reached at




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