Googley Logic: Can Money Buy Success, Innovation, and Insecurity?

May 12, 2021

Two items caught my attention this morning. No, I am not talking about warfighting, a horse trainer’s about face on the use of controlled substances in the horsey world, or melting the Eredivisie trophy into 42,000 champion stars. (Almost everyone is special in the Ajax fan world!)

Nope. Nope. Nope.

The first item is the Wall Street Journal’s story “Google Plans to Double AI Ethics Research Staff.” The story will demand payment for Mr. Murdoch’s gem of journalism. The main idea for the story is that Google will pump more cash into “the team tasked with evaluating code and product to avert discrimination…” How will this management tactic work out? I cannot predict the future. My hunch is that when it comes to figuring out averting discrimination, the “team” may find itself in some interesting chalk board meetings with the coach. If have fiddled with models to make the numbers flow, you may not appreciate how those subjective decisions can cascade through smart systems. Toss in the knock on effects of unmonitored feedback loops, and you get some darned thrilling moments in smart software outputs. Is it possible that by spending money be demonstrates the decider thought process used by a high school science club to determine what toppings are put on a vegetarian pizza?

The second item is “YouTube Announces a $100 Million Fund to Reward Top YouTube Shorts Creators over 2021-2022.” I don’t think the 2021-2022 refers to the age of the YouTube stars who qualify. The main point of this write up is to illustate that the Google is serious about short form video. Like other me-too innovators, the GOOG is using money to signal its innovative excellence. YouTube appears to have been blissfully ignorant of TikTok’s become a hot property — what? — four or five years ago. Now the Google is prepared to spend big to develop its new, revolutionary service. TikTok, the cash splash says, you are toast. Maybe Alphabet will issue a TikTok video to the song “I’m Gonna Get You” once the rights issues are worked out. Here’s a verse from the tune:

When you’re driftin’ off to sleep
Close your eyes and think of me
Make it easy on yourself
Don’t dream about nobody else

Is this a nightmare or a lullaby?

Let’s step back.

These two management actions raise some questions for me; for example:

Can money buy trust for Google’s management with regards to ethical AI?

Can money buy innovation in short form video and other new media formats?

Can Alphabet Google YouTube management respond in effective ways to the legal challenges about how it does business, the Amazon surge in product search, and the surprising proliferation of ads in Google search results, maps, and other “free” services?

I have zero insight into the workings of the Google. The firm’s management decisions are fascinating to observe: So big, yet so darned high school science club and certainly “diverse.”

Stephen E Arnold, May 12, 2021


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