What really lies behind Google’s acquisition strategy

Last month I wrote about Google’s acquisition spree and was somewhat critical of the depth of the analysis. I promised a follow up on what I thought was possibly really going, so here it is – better late than never. 

When ever Google acquisitions get discussed it seems the explanation is always somehow connected to data. The argument goes that Google’s only real business model is advertising. Advertising thrives on data (to make it more relevant and therefore effective). Therefore this is the reason behind whatever acquisition that is being discussed. 

I don’t entirely subscribe to this view. I believe there is something a bit deeper and more far reaching happening. 

It you take a look at the list of companies that Google has acquired, among the firms more obviously connected to Google’s core current business model there are a good number which fall into the categories of robotics, artificial intelligence and human computer interface. 

Google’s recent initiatives include Calico, which supports research into ageing and health, the much-publicised driverless car and the infamous Google Glass project. 

Meanwhile Google Ventures, the venture capital arm, is busy investing in life sciences, among other things. 

What have these things got it common? They are all thematically relevant to a particular view of how the future will unfold in 30 to 50 years time. The clue, I think, is in the appointment of Ray Kurzweil  as director of engineering who is officially there to “work on new projects involving machine learning and language processing”. Wikipedia describes him like this:

He has written books on health, artificial intelligence (AI), transhumanism, the technological singularity, and futurism. Kurzweil is a public advocate for the futurist and transhumanist movements, as has been displayed in his vast collection of public talks, wherein he has shared his primarily optimistic outlooks on life extension technologies and the future of nanotechnology, robotics, and biotechnology.

Google is investing, one way or another in most of the key technologies central to Kurzweil’s optimistic vision which means they are very much in the forefront of making this all happen. It could well be that Google may become the first example of a transhumanist corporation. 

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