Larry Page: Google probably needs a new mission statement
Google's CEO says that "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" is outdated. If so, what should Google's new mission be?
Larry Page is thinking celestially. Will he find the words? ZeitgeistMinds/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET
Companies get hung up about their mission statements. Sometimes, they even get strung up because of them.
In Google's case, its actual mission statement is: "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Many, though, associate it more closely with the sweetly naive motto "don't be evil."
Whichever you believe is the true purpose of Google, its CEO believes that neither fully embraces the scope of his company's ambition.
In an interview with the Financial Times published Friday, Larry Page mused that organizing the world's information feels a tad tiny.
When asked whether it's time to consider a new set of words to motivate his humans and robots, he offered: "I think we do, probably."
In 2012, the company's co-founder Sergey Brin tried his hand at finding new words. "In general, I think our mission is to use technology to really change the world for the better."
Somehow, the concept of changing the world for the better has been corrupted by a thousand Silicon Valley child CEOs to mean: "Making an app that will make me more money, so that I can maybe give a little to charity when I'm a billionaire."
One of the biggest problems with mission statements is deciding how honest to be. The clinical
cleanliness of your internal mission might be very different from the one perceived by the great unwashed.
While Google believes it might be organizing the world's information, some might perceive it as taking the world's information and making a canyon-full of money from it, in every possible way.
With Google, there's too often the suggestion that making information useful consists of also making it useful to Google.
Clearly, though, Page is thinking about higher purposes than information and its grubby agent -- advertising.
He wants to read minds, suggest to people what they should be doing, drive them around so that they don't get in each other's way, prevent the sick from dying and, who knows, one day raise the dead -- or at least the dead who can still be useful, like Tesla and Galileo.
My colleague Stephen Shankland described how Google is becoming an extension of your mind. But it's more than that, isn't it? Google wants to alter the way society works and therefore the way all human minds work.
Page mused to the Financial Times about technology inevitably making more people idle. So what to do with these idle folks? Repurpose them to train robots, which will become the sorts of people who will always be needed, perhaps.
His vision isn't purely technological, it's socio-political. He told the Times: "It's a really interesting problem, how do we organize our democracies? If you look at satisfaction in the US, it's not going up, it's going down. That's pretty worrying."
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