Signs and Portents

In the ancient world, many signs and symbols carried with them deep meanings and were often the key to unlocking the future. Changes in weather, the direction that birds flew, the reading of tea leaves, all were interpreted and gave direction towards what tomorrow holds in store.

Having said that – being modern times and all – signs and portents can be read in a much more benign and maybe even accurate manner (at least sometimes). Newspapers, blogs, reports, sources – you get the picture. And, if you really pay attention and look for them sing and portents can be very potent. Portent in point:

This New York Times story ran on Saturday July 5, 2008:

Basically it tells the story of Google and its Day Care. The title of the article was “On Day Care, Google Makes a Rare Fumble.”. At first glance, it seems innocuous enough. Read it carefully. The story is about good solid Day Care that Google once offered to its employees at a fair market value and its unilateral move to change the offering—raise the price, limit availability and in general cut back on perks and such that were once an inseparable part of the public Google culture but are possibly seen as mere entitlements in the current Google era.

Hold the thought on the current Google era.

Let me cut to the chase. The article ends with the following summary: “Judging by what’s transpired, that’s what Google is fast becoming: just another company.”
Think on that—“just another company.” Google. One of the most admired and envied companies in the world. Is that possible?

Let’s return to the thought on the current Google era.

In the opinion of some, Google may have become a bit greedy and lost its sense of humility. Some sectors may say, “Never much transparency there, but today there is way less”. They may think worse: There is a public exhortation of values – private doing what they want.

All in all, who cares…except that we care. We care if for no other reason than it’s a portent for the future. A litmus test of what might be next.

While I have no specific answer nor is my view of particular importance, I do believe that we need to pay close attention to this story—if for no other reason than the cracks are beginning to show…and then who knows.

For the sake of signs and portents – I will take the liberty of building on three quotes:

“The offspring of riches: Pride, vanity, ostentation, arrogance, tyranny”
Mark Twain

Tyranny – think on that and the Google-Yahoo deal, on their view on privacy and on how they dealt with business China.

Now follow the thought as expressed in the article:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
C. S. Lewis

If you ever want to see an expression of Google today this is it. But so what! You should be asking – who cares!

And here is where the signs and portents come into play:

Under conditions of tyranny it is far easier to act than to think.
Hannah Arendt

And there you have it. The future of Google? Maybe the future belongs to those who can continue to think…

What do you think?

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