Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.
Google are always doing interesting things, and one of the reasons I get excited about our current era is that a company distinguishing themselves by not being evil do so well. In fact, they’re the defining architects of the internet itself, and the internet is a big enough deal that history will look upon the computer itself as a footnote to the revolution it enabled. Google are the largest part of a change that isn’t merely technological, cultural, societal or domestic – it’s a milestone in the evolution of the species. There’s ‘can use tools’, ‘brain has well-developed speech centre’ then ‘Googles’.
The new thing is that they’re giving free wireless internet access to the whole of San Francisco. If they move into banking, expect them to drop free money from planes.
It’s hard for me not to imagine a huge translucent blob of connectivity enveloping the city now. There is something wildly futuristic about the idea of free wireless access everywhere – didn’t dialling up, paying per month and plugging things in always feel a little archaic? But more than that, the scary and exciting thing to me is that the internet itself now has an enormous, incredibly rich and powerful agent in the physical world. Google just want the internet everywhere, so much so that they’ll bring it about at their own expense. Until now it’s been a force of nature, growing according to a mess of conflicting interests of parties fighting it out, using the net as a battleground. Now its growth is going to be directed and encouraged by an apparently benevolent corporate super-power. It has become a thing trying to take us over, rather than one waiting for us to realise we want it.
Maybe the story sounds more trivial than that, but to me there is something huge about the idea of giving a free connection to everyone in a city. Not a voucher to have one installed, just free connectivity hanging in the air itself, waiting to be picked up by a wireless network card. Suddenly that city is super-connected – the barrier to being online in a serious way having plummeted from an expensive subscription and installation to a simple $20 component – and the implications of that could be vast. It doesn’t take a visionary to see the city-wide radius increasing, or at least being copied elsewhere, and in the very long term it could actually accentuate the developed/developing country divide – education, information skills and even which parts of the brain and body are more developed are going to get more and more significantly different between super-connected countries and offline ones. It’s the stuff of sci-fi, but in fiction this kind of schism has always been characterised as dystopian. Reality looks more positive, however ugly that divide might get, it’s sharper for one side being raised, not the other lowered.
craigp: *Googles for Tom's tale of ballooning*.
That is amazing and super-good. Considering the hotel in my nearby town charges Ã‚Â£5 an hour for use of its wireless internet access, I'm pretty shocked at this.
Mr Dan: I think when you connect to their Internet you get Google Ads. Not sure how though, but i think you do.
So lets for a second say that 10% of people in San Francisco decide to use this Wireless Internet, which they will, because it's free. Looking up on the net that equals 3,500,000 using their service. That's 3,500,000 looking at ads. They then sell the ad space for lots of money to big companies, naturally.
So it's not exactly an entirely self-less act. Although it is still entirely great. I just wouldn't say they were doing it for the good of mankind or anything.
If they end up repeating the process in other cities it just adds to their list of users. Eventually so many people will be connecting to their networks that Google could switch to their own version of the Internet entirely.
Jason L: Yeah, that's the really awesome part of Google - they're smart idealists. They find ways of doing good that also do well.
Jason L: As long as it's necropost week, I hereby officially eat crow. Time for a new motto, I guess.