Do we appreciate how insanely privileged we are to live in a time when the barriers between our imagination and reality have shrunk to virtually nothing? When a company can go from idea to commercialization in days? When we are never without an answer more than a few keystrokes or screen-taps away? I don't think we do.
Instead of an ever-increasing level of gratitude, we experience an ever-increasing level of entitlement. From the comfort of our couches, we pick apart the very organizations that have made possible our revolutionary existence. We used to love Google, but it got too big and wants too much information. Microsoft is a dinosaur that only has its own best interests at heart. Facebook is useless at respecting user data. Even Apple is starting to get all heavy-handed, what with its NCIS-style response to the loss of the prototype iPhone. Now the company's latest policy of proscribing the use of non-Apple developer tools is looking like it will provoke an antitrust inquiry.
With respect to Bonnie Tyler, we need a hero. We look around the search space, and every major player is, well, a major player -- and flexing its muscles accordingly. These are not the scrappy underdogs giving it their all to overcome monumental odds; these are the Goliaths, the Leviathans. And they swallow any new company that starts to look even remotely interesting.
A few years back, Bill Maher explained to women how men think: "No woman in America would ever get breast implants, 'cause if you really got inside the man's mind, you'd understand that it's never about big or little or short or tall or blond or brunette; it's only about old and new. Hugh Grant had Elizabeth Hurley at home; he wanted Marvin Hagler in a wig."
Is the same true for search engines and tech companies? Are we just looking for something new? Or is it, in fact, about big or little?
Certainly, the more successful you are in any endeavor, the more scrutiny to which you will be subject. But in this case, size matters, as does reach.
The fact is, Google has to be held to a higher standard of responsibility and accountability. It's the library of the modern age: a corporation that, although publicly traded, is controlled by three people who ultimately decide how all our questions get answered. Every time it changes its algorithm, the uptake of knowledge is altered across the world. We need to be paying attention.
The fact is, I still don't know the difference between a search engine and a decision engine. The fact is, if Flash sucked as bad as Steve Jobs made it out to suck, Apple wouldn't have to force developers to comply. The fact is, we never should have allowed the decision about how much personal data gets disclosed to the world to be made by a kid whose T-shirts say, "I'm CEO, bitch!"
So who is left for us to root for? Are we cheering for Twitter? If so, let me know there: @kcolbin. (And/or comment below.)