Tag Archives: Google

Religions symbols in Unicode characters

I was testing a chat system we’re creating with Extjs (amazin Javascript framework!) and I wanted to test issues with “strange” characters. So I quickly found the page of special characters on Italian wikipedia and I was very surprised to see that there are religious (and political) symbols in Unicode standard characters. What you see in the following are normal chars you can copy and paste, just as a normal “a”. I think the classification under “religious As bru was saying in chat: “wow, lots of crosses” … ;)

☥ ☥ ☦ ☦ ☧ ☧ ☨ ☨ ☩ ☩ ☪ ☪ ☫ ☫ ☬ ☬ ☭ ☭ ☮ ☮ ☯ ☯ ♰ â™° ♱ â™± ✝ ✝ ✞ ✞ ✟ ✟

A search on Google for “☭” did not return any result. A search for the swastica symbol instead returns results and actually it was once one of the hot terms in Google Trends. I wonder what Unicode characters does Google include and exclude.

By the way, what is the strangest Unicode character you are able to find (for some definition of “strange”)?

From e-democracy to Google-democracy?

Maybe you have seen the announcement of the new bigG service: Google Health (see Blogoscoped).
I guess you have heard in the past years many times the “new” (?) terms, right?
E-voting, e-health, e-learning, e-government, e-democracy, e-identity, e-business, e-participation, e-environment, e-weather (if you have heard more, please suggest it in a comment). Just prefix “e-” in front of any oh-so-out-of-fashion word and you have a new keyword you can use to ask funds for new projects.
Now, there would be a lot of concerns about the e-anything by itself. But I was wondering: we haven’t even reach an agreement of what e-anything is (say e-government), how much it is useful, and how to deploy it for real for a better world (this is why we do things, right?) but maybe we are already moving from e-anything to google-anything or g-anything (say google-government)?
Just think about it for a second. Today we got Google-health, which I’m sure will be embraced by many people like you and me.
Tomorrow Google would start offering free (FREE!) services to governments such that governments can cut their costs of managing a state (finance, tax keeping, population registration, etc to 0 (ZERO!). How many countries would resists? That would be the google-government.
You can try to prefix google- to words and think about those services. google-voting, eh? Up up to google-democracy of course! Scary? Well, maybe you think I’m paranoid and this is probably very true but I’m curious to know what you think.
And for the record I use Google free services for most of my needs, so yes, I have already capitulated.

Last pointless point. I hope at least countries will not undergo this path. You know, I would not like to have to call E-stonia and E-Latvia as G-stonia and G-Latvia. Moreover names on maps will become more boring, no? Uhm, did anybody say e-earth google-earth?

DNA2.0 or how to google your genome (and put it in a social network)

23andme_social If you haven’t watched Gattaga, this might be a good time for doing it.

23andme is a society funded with 10.000.000 dollars by Google. 23andme was co-founded by Anne Wojcicki, which is the wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

23andme sells the following service: for 1000 dollars, you send us your saliva and we send you a complete analysis of your DNA.

This is already enough scary, as sonnoprofondo points out:
“What could be the reaction of someone just learning she inherited a risk for a certain heart disease from her mother? How would you feel if your DNA tells that your father has typically german genes and blue eyes, while you have always thought the opposite? Would you accept easily the idea your 2 years-old son inherited from your the risk for a certain disease?”

But what is more scary is that 23andme will upload your genetic information to a secure database. Then with your own private login, you can then use our web-based interactive tools to 23andme will upload your genetic information to a secure database. Then with your own private login, you can then use our web-based interactive tools to explore your genome. You can discover your origins, learn what the latest genetic findings may mean for you, and connect genetically with friends, family, and others across the globe explore your genome. This is directly from their website.
So this is astonishing, and this is what they are up to (and remember they are funded by google which already knows almost everything about you).

Moreover it is not too hard to guess the password of someone and enter in her account. This is true at least until 23andme does not put in place authentication based on your physical characteristics (“Just spit on your Webcamera and we will know you are you …”) … Uhm, maybe after Gattaga you might consider watching Matrix again.

So, is this a promising market? That is, how many persons will be willing to pay $1000 for getting their DNA? I have no idea about this sector, but my fear is that there will be many. And once 23andme becomes the leading provider in this sector and considering the network effect (“invite your friend to connect genetically to you, by sending her/him this discounted coupon option for DNA analysis”), 23andme will be in a key position for our very very society.

Consequences? Difficult to imagine for me, as I’m not very imaginative. But let me try.
This long Wired article starts with: And what are physicians, most likely untrained in and unprepared for genomic medicine, to do when a patient comes in wielding a printout that indicates a particular variation of a particular gene? This new age of genomics comes with great opportunity — but also great quandaries.
Maybe someone misinterpreting her genome and committing suicide?
Maybe will it happen that someone (with a good genome she would like to show off) starts posting his genome on her blog/page? (Genome Widget anyone?) Will a potential employer first search the Web (GenomeSphere?) in order to find the potential employee’s genome and decide to hire her or not based on this? If the fraction of people who voluntarily post their genome becomes large enough, not posting your genome might be seen as suspect (“has this potential employee/date/friend something to hide?”).
As much as you can trust 23andme to have figure out Web security right, is a computer glitch unwantedly exposing some information totally impossible? What if the government asks for this data?

I don’t know. Is the fact I’m so scared just a symptom of me being too old for these new times? I can already hear people saying “this is only information, more information is always good, then you can make more informed decisions”. Uhm, I don’t know. Are you scared as well, my old friend?

And if you are wondering why the company is named 23andme … how many pairs of chromosomes do you think you have in your DNA? Yes, 23.

Google: “All your network are belong to us”

This is huge, singularity is approaching fast! From Google OpenSocial To Launch Thursday:

Google wants to create an easy way for developers to create an application that works on all social networks. And if they pull it off, they’ll be in the center, controlling the network.

Great comment by Alex to the post:

On the other hand ALL the social networking sites will now have to open up otherwise they will lose members.

What Google proposed is, I guess since the details will be revealed tomorrow, a simple API with a minimal set of methods, something that thousands of entities (programmers, startups, companies) could have done in a similar way. The challenge is not too much technical. The challenge is social: if Google proposes an OpenSocial API, it will get adopted in seconds, if some unknown entity propose the very same API, nobody will notice it. What is happening is that Google is quickly becoming the globally recognized entity in charge or defining the evolution of the Web: Google is quickly taking the role of W3C that, according to Wikipedia, is “the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web (abbreviated WWW or W3).”

Title of the post? See All your base are belong to us page on wikipedia.

Reading a book on Google Books and deciding not to buy it

Today my attention got caught by the title of the book Networks, Trust, and Social Capital: Theoretical And Empirical Investigations from Europe. I then found it on Google Books. It is the first time I read a book on Google Books, it is really great, for this book there are most of the scanned pages (I would say 150 out of 239 pages) so I was able to “read” the book by simply scrolling extremely fast with my mouse over the almost entire book. In this way I was able to decide that I’m not interested in buying and reading it. But what I would have done in a pre-GoogleBooks era? I would have thought “well, based on the title there should be at least one or two articles interesting for me, go and buy it” and I would have wasted some euros for a book I would have not read. Is the present situation better from a consumer point of view? Of course it is. Google Books or any similar program is helping in sharing knowledge and making informed decisions and this is what every author at the end really wants.

Fact: the entire Internet could be served from Google machines

This is probably obvious to you but I discussed this with some friends recently and they seemed to not have considered the eventuality so I thought I might post it here as well.
Straight to the point: it is already technically possible for Google to host the entire Internet and serve it from their machines.

Google already offers an email service (2 Gigabytes of emails they mantain on their servers and serve it from their machines). Google already mantains a copy of (almost) the entire Web (and they serve it from their machines, through their Web cache service). While not all the people in the world at the moment use them, they surely can scale them to all the people of the world; in short they can host all the email boxes and all the Web sites and serve them from their machines.
Just imagine what will happen if tomorrow Google announces that you can register a domain for free with Google and can use their hosted services (hosted email, blog and web page). They can afford the cost of domain registration. Actually, if they are able to get all the domains in the world, they can even outrule and substitute the ICANN (the fact I agree to pay some organization for being in control of paolomassa.com means I agree with a social-technical convention, involving domain names and how they can be found in a decentralized system; social-technical conventions can be changed of course. But I’m digressing.)
95% of the people will prefer to have everything working and for free from Google instead of investing a lot of time and money in setting up servers, DNS, backups, replication, etc. There will be no more need for email servers or web servers, basically all the servers in Internet will be Google ones, our computers will just be dumb terminals able to run a Web browser (the free software Firefox probably). We will move from a network of computers connectig each other (decentralized) to a star topology (centralized) with all the dumb terminals connected to Google central server. Google will be able to even change HTTP since all the servers will be theirs. Actually there will be no more need for the protocols I studied at the University (SMTP, HTTP, FTP, GOPHER, NNTP): all emails will move from Google machines to other Google machines (so they will be able for instance to completely change the protocol, I consider spam a feature and not a bug of a decentralized system but, if you don’t, in this way Google will be able to stop spam as well), all web sites will be served by Google machines, the only protocol remaining us would be anything able to send data to our Web browser and it could be anything.

I’m not arguing that Google will do it soon or that it is in their best interest, now. But it might be and in few years there might even be more companies technically able to host (and take control) of the entire Internet. On a related note, it is interesting to mull over how much would be worth such a company, the recipient and holder of all the knowledge created by anyone in the world.
So would this be good for the world? Of course I think not, it will be the end of the world of ends and of innovation happening on the edges. And when there is no more concurrency and a single point of failure, it will be no more in Google’s interest to stand by their “don’t be evil” motto but they will have to stand by the interests of their shareholders and the governments which will easily hunt for information in one single place.
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, what if you can have all the people of the world directly creating this information in your hard disks? This is technically possible today, will it happen? Time will tell.