Over the holidays I had the opportunity to read a couple of excellent books. The Glass Castle is a memoir told from the perspective of a young girl who grows up with an alcoholic father and a mother who calls herself an “excitement addict.” It is an unbelievable story of survival as the parents move from town to town to evade bill collectors and how eventually the children grow up to take care of their own parents.
The Search by John Battelle is about “How Google and its rivals rewrote the rules of business and transformed our culture,” as the sub-title says. Here is one of the quotes that captures the importance of search today (from page 13): “Search straddles an increasingly complicated territory in marketing, media, technology, pop culture, international law, and civil liberties. It is fraught not only with staggering technology obstacles – imagine the data created by billions of queries each week – but with nearly paralyzing social responsibility. If Google and companies like it know what the world wants, powerful organizations become quite interested in them, and vulnerable individuals see them as a threat. Etched into the silicon of Google´s more than 150,000 servers, more likely than not, are the agonized clickstreams of a gay man with AIDS, the silent intentions of a would-be bomb maker, the digital bread crumbs of a serial killer. Through companies like Google and the results they serve, an individual´s digital identity is immortalized and can be retrieved upon demand. For now, Google cofounder Sergey Brin has assured me, such demands are neither made nor met. But in the face of such power, how long can that stand?”