Monday, January 05, 2004

Google and Glass-Steagall

A number of my colleagues are travelling to San Diego for a conference. One of their presentations concerns Google as a democratic power. Due to the voting nature of PageRank Google seems to be a completely democratic IR technology. My colleagues, however, have some concerns.

I'm not necessarily supporting or disagreeing with them. I just wonder how we could possibly intervene with IR technologies. Indeed, most discussion of IR technologies (e.g., TREC) concern what the technology could do rather than what it should do.

Given my technology bent, I'm keen to argue that IR engines themselves have no motives and are just reflective of the underlying corpus. My librarian side, however, is senstive to any suggestion of possibly editing or censoring the collection! Perhaps a larger intervention is in order.

Many have argued that information is now the life-blood of our economy--perhaps explaining my colleagues' suspicions of Google since it is the primary conveyor of information. Information has perhaps replaced money as the key motivating economic factor. While the federal government hasn't intervened with information institutions, it has certainly restrained the activities of banks. The famous Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 separated retail banking from commercial enterprises such as issueing bond or debentures.

As information replaces money, perhaps Google will face similar legislation.

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