Google was once happy to help us find things on the wild, wild web. The company has obviously grown past that point, but could it soon be savior of the entire world? Possibly and probably.
While the U.S. government can't seem to get its shit together and grow green energy, Google's living up to their motto to "don't be evil," the company and announced that they're working on a slew of technologies aimed at cutting energy costs.
The first: a new, cheaper form of solar thermal technology. Rather than relying on traditional heliostats, which track the sun's movement and aligns panels accordingly, the company is trying to develop new mirrors that will be at least half the price. Then, as if that's not enough, they're also looking into constructing gas turbines that feed off the sun, rather than natural gas, which would, in turn, reduce your energy bill, according to Bill Weihl, the company's "green energy czar."
In two to three years we could be demonstrating a significant scale pilot system that would generate a lot of power and would be clearly mass manufacturable at a cost that would give us a levelized cost of electricity that would be in the 5 cents or sub 5 cents a kilowatt hour range.
Of course, like any organization looking to improve the world, Google's not focused solely on science, but, as we all know, information. The newest effort on that front is a plan to compensate online newspapers for their content, which would be done through a "system of micropayments" akin to the consumption-oriented Google Checkout.
While currently in the early planning stages, micropayments will be a payment vehicle available to both Google and non-Google properties within the next year. The idea is to allow viable payments of a penny to several dollars by aggregating purchases across merchants and over time.
This would help get newspaper publisher's off the company's back, yes, but does nothing to help alleviate another information-related headache: the ongoing battle over Google Books.
That project has hit its fair share of road blocks, particularly negotiations around the "Book Rights Registry," which would keep track of which publishers, authors and the like should get cash for their digitized publications. A judge will rule on that next month. But, as a growing world power, Google's facing international pressure on that issue, with some foreign government's whining that the company's efforts will derail their own plans for digital libraries.
While certainly economically motivated, all of these anti-Google objections show the company's vast and growing power. It couldn't fight the Chinese government's censors, but it's sure as shit doing its best to challenge other well-established institution's ways and means.
Like a good government, Google's bringing people together and at least making an attempt to keep the peace. That doesn't always work, no, but with most of the developed world using the company in some way, shape or form, it's looking more and more likely that Google's power will soon extend far beyond one's computer screen. Let's just hope they keep their aforementioned promise, or else we're all totally fucked.