watching abu dhabi grow

I Know What You’re Collectively Thinking

As with most companies that make things your staff uses search engines to effectively go about their business. The guys and gals in the research lab use it to track down obscure topics in online journals; the creatives spend a fair bit of time, well, y’know, browsing stuff to shake and stir their creative juices; human resources turn to it for whatever it is they do between alternate rounds of hiring and firing; and the comms team to seed stories and monitor responses.

The search engine knows you by name, most of you a lot more – you did after all sign your soul away for that terabyte data archive.

What happens when you take a reasonable time span of search data – say twenty years, associate it with the education, leisure, pleasure and work search queries of individuals, and pool it with a collective/legal entity such as a company? How about your company? Something as simple as tracking searches from a particular domain correlated with job titles. They haven’t been sitting idly by just looking at search terms over those twenty years – they’ve tracked the financial returns of your company performance, career trajectories of who has joined and who has left, the products and services they’ve released and how well these have done in the market place.

That big recall in 2017? They were there, hosting the complaints forums, re-directing searches for the class action lawsuit, and remembering the search queries by an engineer clearly out of his depth.

That researcher who went onto earn a Nobel prize – they were there at the beginning when she typed her first hesitant words, scoping a new vocabularly for an emergent domain. They watched and learned.

How long before the collective search terms of a company can be used to sufficiently predict the products and services they next bring to market? How long before that search engine moves into financial forecasting? And given that companies and other deep-pocketed legal entities are (profit) motivated to protect ‘their’ privacy what tools will ensure that what goes on in the lab, stays in the lab? How will these tools manifest themselves as business and consumer products?

And what role do the search logs play with companies like Apple and Samsung that forcing disclosure of emails and more in the name of establishing prior art for patents? And to extrapolate, what happens when Google knows more about Apple employees than Apple knows about them? And given that Apple knows this, how does force Apple to change its creative process?

With apologies to Alan Kay: the best way to predict the future may be to invent it, but the easiest way to predict the future is, simply to predict it, and keep tabs on those who are inventing it.

Right now Google’s keeping tabs on itself.


My first book Hidden in Plain Sight explores the opportunities that come from seeing the world through fresh eyes. Follow @studiodradiodurans on Instagram. Enjoy this? Click [heart] so others can too.