Google: America's third political party
At last week's I/O conference, Google's Larry Page didn't speak like a CEO. He spoke like a politician.
Congress is a dog that won't go for a walk.
We can tug at its leash as hard as we want, but it sits in the middle of the sidewalk, barking a defiant "no." It's not a purposeful no. It's just a refusal for the sake of it, couched in principle.
Then along comes America's most ambitious politician.
No, it's not Paul Ryan or Elizabeth Warren. It's Larry Page.
The man who is Google stood at last week's I/O 2013 conference and made his own types believe that he was talking about technology.
His true agenda, though, is political.
Where government can do nothing, Google can do everything. Where government can offer no vision, Google merely asks how much time you have to listen and marvel at all the visions in its mind.
Government can't make you happy, but Google can.
"Technology should do the hard work," Page said, "so people can get on doing the things that make them happiest in life."
Which would, for example, be Googling things while they sit in their self-driving cars.
Page spoke of revolutionizing health care, driving, and a host of other life-aspects that people (and governments) take for granted.
With his newly automated cars, Page promised "more green space, fewer parking lots, greater mobility, fewer accidents, more freedom."
These aren't corporate words. They're the very promises of a politician who wants to shake up the local council.
The mere idea of offering a better life is one that used to be the exclusive aegis of political types. It used to be the marketing hook upon which you were supposed to hang your vote.
But Page even wants to go beyond the current laws bywhere Google could experiment with creating the future -- and, surely, change the ways and means (and laws) by which we live.
That used to be the preserve of governments in secret labs all around the world.
For Page, the traditional competition of corporate life is faintly banal.
He said: "It's hard to find actual examples of really amazing things that happened solely due to competition. How exciting is it to come to work if the best you can do is trounce some other company that does roughly the same thing?"
The Googlecrat Political Party doesn't believe in the two-party system. That just creates arguments, rather than actions.
Instead, the Googlecrats insist that there are so many problems to be solved and that Google, rather than your government, is more likely to solve them.
Page was asking far bigger questions than those of mere technology.
In a week in which the government was hip-deep in one supposed scandal after another, Page wondered between the lines whether governments could ever really work for people anymore.
He wondered whether the very same principles of competition that make corporations wither and die would do the same for government.
He was talking at developers, but he was talking to real people.
The question was a basic one: Do you trust the company that is now in possession of far more information about you than your government to do a better job for you than your government?
If Google knows you better (and it most certainly wants to), why not let it make your life better too?
It's a fair question, isn't it?