Alphabet Google Justifies Its R&D Science Club Methods

January 23, 2016

In the midst of the snowmageddon craziness in rural Kentucky, I noted a couple of Alphabet Google write ups. Unlike the sale of shares, the article tackle the conceptual value of the Alphabet Google’s approach to research and development. I view most of Google’s post 2006 research as an advanced version of my high school science club projects.

Our tasks in 1960 included doing a moon measurement from central Illinois. Don’t laugh, Don and Bernard Jackson published their follow on to the science club musing in 1962. In Don’s first University of Illinois astronomy class, the paper was mentioned by the professor. The prof raised a question about the method. Don raised his hand and explained how the data were gathered. The prof was not impressed. Like many mavens, the notion that a college freshman and his brother wrote a paper, got it published, and then explained the method in front of a class of indifferent freshman was too much for the expert. I think the prof shifted to social science or economics, both less rigorous disciplines in my view.


Google’s research interests.

The point is that youth can get some things right. As folks age, the view of what’s right and what’s a little off the beam differ.

Let’s look at the first write up called “How Larry Page’s Obsessions Became Google’s Business.” Note that if the link is dead, you may have to subscribe to the newspaper or hit the library in search of a dead tree copy. The New York Times have an on again and off again approach to the Google. It’s not that the reporters don’t ask the right questions. I think that the “real” journalists get distracted with the free mouse pads and folks like Tony Bennett crooning in the cafeteria to think about what the Google was, is, and has become.

The article points out:

Mr. Page is hardly the first Silicon Valley chief with a case of intellectual wanderlust, but unlike most of his peers, he has invested far beyond his company’s core business and in many ways has made it a reflection of his personal fascinations.

I then learned:

Another question he likes to ask: “Why can’t this be bigger?”

The suggestion that bigger is better is interesting. Stakeholders assume the “bigger” means more revenue and profit. Let’s hope.

Then this insight:

When Mr. Page does talk in public, he tends to focus on optimistic pronouncements about the future and Google’s desire to help humanity.

Optimism is good.

I then worked through “Google Alphabet and Four times the Research Budget of Darpa and Larger Moonshot Ambitions than Darpa.”

The bigger, I thought, may not be revenue. The bigger may be the budget of the science club. If Don and Bernie Jackson could build on the moon data, Google can too. Right?

The write up reported:

Google will have $20-24 billion in operating income and $12-14 billion will be spent on research and development in 2016.

Okay, that’s a reasonable chunk of change. The article reiterates that:

Larry Page is dedicated to “moonshots” like interplanetary travel, or offering employees time and money to pursue new projects of their own. By breaking Google into Alphabet, Mr. Page is hoping to make it a more welcoming home for employees to build new businesses, as well as for potential acquisition targets.

Invention, therefore, is only part of the story. Why not buy innovation? Invention is semi risky. Think about those rockets that don’t land as they do in sci fi movies.

The article includes a helpful diagram of the “research”. I noted that solving death was not listed.

The article reports:

Larry intends to push even further with Alphabet. It is a holding company that separates Google’s various cash-rich advertising businesses from the list of speculative projects like self-driving cars that capture the imagination but do not make much money. Alphabet companies and investments span disciplines from biotechnology to energy generation to space travel to artificial intelligence to urban planning.

I think back to what our high school science club accomplished. We had no money. We just did stuff. Some of the projects worked out. My hunch is that Google’s track record will mirror our experiences from 50 years ago.

What’s this say about Google and Google search? The company is generating money via advertising and trying to innovate. As some Googlers might say, “Interesting.”

Stephen E Arnold, January 23, 2016


3 Responses to “Alphabet Google Justifies Its R&D Science Club Methods”

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