Your thoughts on Google, NASA, happiness, and our redesign.
What’s Next for Google?
Charles Ferguson draws parallels between Google and Microsoft’s past rivals, predicting an edge for Microsoft (“What’s Next for Google,” January 2005). But Google is unlike any company Microsoft has witnessed in the past in how it identifies opportunities, innovates, operates, and pursues growth. Even if Microsoft is to develop superior search, it will find it impossible to get users to abandon their much-loved search engine. To survive Google, Microsoft has only one option: to out-innovate it. But Microsoft’s past performance in innovation doesn’t hold much promise of that happening. Innovation is something that simply cannot be bought. It has to be systemic – which is why in this game, it’s advantage, Google.
New Delhi, India
Interesting times are facing Google. Like browsers were in 1995, search is now the killer technology in the evolution of the Web. It has produced opportunities for financial windfalls unprecedented in business and technology. But unlike companies that fought the browser war of the mid-1990s, Google has been insightful and preëmptive in the way that it has crafted its next evolution. While it has become the preëminent destination for finding information on the Web, this represents only a stepping-stone for the company. Enabling users to interact with data important to them on every level is where Google may ultimately change the world. This is exactly what Microsoft’s been trying to achieve for the last decade, but hasn’t. Google’s war won’t be about search. It’ll be about us and what we want to do, not just where we want to go.
By deciding what we see first, search engines have an enormous impact on our perception of reality, and I don’t think that humanity will embrace a single technology defining that reality. Moreover, being able to index ever larger volumes of data becomes meaningless when the industry takes a one-size-fits-all approach. What is needed are cyber-agents that discern who you are and what you are interested in, and respond with personalized results.
I see what you are getting at with your January cover, but you did it in a tasteless and sacrilegious way. There is only one God, and he doesn’t run Google – not directly, anyway.
Killing Science at NASA
Mark Williams misunderstands the changes at NASA (“Toward a New Vision of Manned Spaceflight,” January 2005). NASA has for many years had long-term plans for manned spaceflight and manned trips to Mars – that is not something introduced by President Bush. What’s new is that the Bush administration is giving manned spaceflight priority at the expense of ongoing and future scientific programs. By deëmphasizing science, the administration may destroy NASA’s most important activity.
David W. Hogg
New York, NY
James Surowiecki’s article (“Technology and Happiness,” January 2005) suffers from a one-sided paradigm. The question considered was whether technology in general or technological change in particular causes happiness to increase, decrease, or remain the same. But technology might be better understood less as a cause of happiness than as an effect of it. Technological change, after all, is clearly the product of human action, which in turn is generally undertaken in the pursuit of happiness. As such, the pursuit of happiness might be considered to be the cause of technological change.
Santa Cruz, CA
TR’s New Look
Your new design is clean and distinctive, the navigational cues allow me to focus on the content, and the articles are topical and well-written. Kudos!
How pleased I am to read of your plans to take Technology Review in a new direction. For the last several years, TR has been full of breathless, uncritical claims of the newest and the greatest things that were supposedly just around the corner. I encourage you to choose investigative, critical, and mature writers who will distinguish passing fads from real advances.
I’m thrilled with what you’ve done. The January issue includes excellent writers, and the range of topics reflects the talents and interests of the MIT community.
You seem to have almost abandoned technology and shifted to editorial commentary about technology. The greatest sin in journalism, especially scientific journalism, is pontification.
Boca Raton, FL
Correction: In “Microsoft Declares War on Spam” (February 2005), we misrepresented a Pew Internet and American Life Project survey as stating that “60 million people said they had ordered products or services advertised via unsolicited e-mail.” The correct figure is six million people.
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