There’s a reason you’ve seen this comparison made before. There’s a reason “Google is Skynet” shows up as the fourth suggested search when you type “google is” (with a space) into the world’s most popular search engine. Despite Google’s company slogan - “don’t be evil” - the company has an alarming amount of data about the human race and it only continues to get more. In the wake of Google’s announcement that it will purchase Motorola, I started to wonder just how deep the comparison runs.
The following five goals belong to Skynet just as they belong to Google.
1. Eliminate human error
In the Terminator series, Skynet was developed to eliminate errors in human military decision making. It was a way for the US Military to communicate across the globe - a single, unified system for relaying information and producing quick, decisive action. Unfortunately, that system also had the potential to become self-aware and, you know, effectively put an end to the human race.
In the same way, Google was designed to eliminate errors in finding information. Originally the goal was to stop 404 errors, which quickly became delivering the most accurate search results in as little time as possible. Then came predictive search and auto-correction for the search strings Google receives. Thankfully, this system doesn’t exactly have the potential for self-awareness or human destruction. Not by itself, anyway.
2. Infiltrate every device
At the end of Terminator 3, John Connor tells us, “By the time Skynet became self-aware, it had spread into millions of computer servers across the planet. Ordinary computers in office buildings, dorm rooms, everywhere. It was software, in cyberspace. There was no system core. It could not be shut down.” I feel like I don’t even need to draw the similarities with this one.
A system that could function on different computers all over the world? A system that could jump across open lines of communication to control whatever device it was on? Sounds like an operating system to me. Something lightweight, customizable, and capable of handling all manner of devices - this is basically an alternate definition of Android, which is already the prominent mobile operating system. Android is totally capable of being the primary operating system in just about any device. It runs tablets, ereaders, PCs, mobile phones, and those are just the smart devices. Android has been hacked onto routers, remote controls and just about anything with with an electrical system. The major difference between Skynet and Android, you know, from a techno-conspiracy perspective, is that people love Android. They willingly install it on anything and everything, spreading the Skynet cause with a few simple root commands.
3. Compile as much data about humanity as possible
In order to destroy the human race, Skynet begain compiling as much information as possible about the human race and programming it into their Terminators. Terminators were adaptive, too, learning from human knowledge and interaction. Though the tech behind the human/terminator hybrid from “Terminator: Salvation” is a little unclear, it’s not completely outside the plot to say that Skynet learned how to program emotion and experience into a cybernetic organism.
Google may not be capturing your emotional states and teaching sentient computer programs to hunt you down, but it is collecting and storing every string you’ve ever searched. What do they do with it? No one can say for sure. The hope is that it’s sitting around on a secure server, but we know at the very least that the data is being used. Google makes the vast majority of its money from ads that target users based on their search history. Ever searched for a particular product or subject just to have it show up in ads on every website you visit? That’s Google’s servers hard at work, remembering what you do, what you like, and what you buy.
4. Hoard the most valuable resources
Terminators are lethal because they’re both constantly trying to kill you and they will not f***ing die. They keep coming, even when they’ve had arms, limbs, and most of their control systems removed. They’re made from Coltan, a heat-resistant alloy that is nearly indestructible. Skynet began hoarding the metal after Judgement Day so they could continue to make Terminators to hunt down and eradicate the human race.
Google’s decision to purchase Motorola isn’t about designing cell phones. It isn’t about hardware. It isn’t about technology. It’s about patents, Silicon Valley’s most valuable resource. Google spent $12 billion on an entire company, just for that company’s patents. Google says the move was defensive, a response to the $4.5 billion Apple and Microsoft spent on the Nortel patents. Are we really supposed to believe that Google was able to orchestrate the Motorola deal in just a couple weeks?
5. Destroy all threats
Once it became self-aware, Skynet’s bottom line was self-preservation above all else. When humanity threatened to destroy it, Skynet went for the nuclear approach - an all-out assault on the human race. When humanity formed a resistance, Skynet sent a Terminator back in time to kill the leader of that resistance. Skynet was willing to do anything to protect its interests.
It’s tough to say which came first, the Motorola deal or the Nortel patent auction. Whatever the case, though, it’s clear that Google went the way of Skynet. Not only did the company run up the price of the Nortel patents with bids like Brun’s constant and Pi in billions of dollars, it then went and purchased three times the number of patents its competitors recently purchased at a fraction of the price. Are we seriously supposed to believe that $12 billion worth of patents will only be used defensively? Maybe for now, but that’s an awful lot of firepower to tuck away for defensive purposes.
When Android suddenly turns on us and our cell phones start attacking, will we have a John Connor that saw things coming? Not unless Google makes Skynet’s mistake and lets a time travel device fall into the hands of humanity. Oh, it already did that.