Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Google News

No, I don't mean to suggest searching for news on Google; I am alluding to an eventful last week at Mountain View:

1. Google has gone sans serif. It recently changed the logo that appears on its famous unadorned search page*, a change that has been called the biggest update for Google in last 16 years --- and this is when Google recently rebranded all its services and subsidiaries under a common conglomerate called the Alphabet! The new logo has been touted as having a more "benevolent" design with particular friendliness towards mobile devices. See a detailed evolution of the ubiquitous colorful 6 letters, as heard from the horse's mouth itself, here.

2. In another news, Google's driverless cars are running into a unique, but inevitable, problem -- perfect robots meet imperfect humans! According to the company, the cars are too safe as they follow the book when it comes to traffic rules, without spontaneous adjustments such as the ones human drivers are used to doing. Last month when one of the robot cars came to a halt to allow right of way to a pedestrian, it was rear-ended by a car driven by a fallible human being! Compels me to paraphrase the current (perennial?) state of "human"-ity in words of Christopher Hitchens -- "..the search of utopia is ultimately a futile and dangerous one. There is no escape from anxiety and struggle." **

P.S. Interestingly this ties into an article that I shared in my earlier post Link Think, where Nicolas Carr (in NYT again) had written about the impossibility of machines replacing humans (ever!). Seems like, it is not overcoming human imperfections but rather replicating them, that turns out to be  most daunting after all!

3. In the recent issue of TIME magazine, I read about the 'most powerful woman on the internet' --YouTube's current CEO Susan Wojcicki. She goes a long way back with Google (Page and Brin started the company practically in her garage!) and, much unconventionally, has a non-technical background unlike the rest of Google's top brass. Apparently, this plays out as a major strength for her and helps her decide on YouTube content from a universal perspective and with mass appeal (amusingly, she sometimes first tests the user experience using her four kids as the guinea pigs!). Recommended reading***.

* It was developed by Marissa Meyer, one of the high power tech women in Silicon valley and current CEO/President of Yahoo! , during her time at Google as vice president of Google Search.
** I should clarify that I am favorably intrigued by this effort of Google. I totally can do with a robot chauffeur, or better still, an implicit one!
*** though behind a paywall

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