“Don’t be evil” — that’s the unofficial Google motto. It’s a simple, almost laughably obvious goal. I find myself wishing more companies picked up the model, though. I wish a few politicians would repeat this mantra in the mirror each morning when they wake up, too.
And when all of that comes to mind, I think, “Who better to enter politics than Larry Page, the co-founder of Google?” That opportunity may be just around the corner for Page.
In his proposed technology policies, Barack Obama has suggested adding a new type of advisor to his inner circle. If elected, Obama wants to appoint a “chief technology officer,” who would oversee the one policy area that has come to dominate our everyday lives.
In recent years, the amount of legislation being proposed on technology issues has skyrocketed. Just this week, for example, a bill aimed at fighting identity theft passed the U.S. House of Representatives and Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) introduced a bill to create a nationwide system of electronic health records.
But when these bills come across the president’s desk, does he really have a well-rounded view on the underlying issues? Regardless of whether Obama or John McCain is elected, the next president will need someone to sort through these tech issues. Page would be a shoo-in for the job.
So why Larry Page? For starters, Page doesn’t want to be evil — but I’m sure Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, tells himself the same thing. What then makes Page any more qualified than any other Silicon Vallet techie? Well, Page has already started crossing over into the delicate world of Washington politics.
In late May, Page appeared in Washington, D.C. to talk about why and how white spaces should be opened up for broadband Internet access. In layman’s terms, this means that the unused channels that television doesn’t use for transmissions should be opened for a super strength, wireless Internet service that could erase the gap between those who have Internet access and those who don’t. Improving access to broadband Internet access, especially in rural areas, is quickly becoming a hot-button issue, so much so that Google has put its weight behind the project, creating the “Free the Airwaves” campaign. Page is an advocate for this issue, but not just behind the scenes. He is personally trying to educate the politicians formulating these policies about how to further the cause. Page has become a lobbyist.
Of course, some people are hesitant about Page having a spot in the America’s political epicenter. Big corporations already have an undue level of influence over our government, and politicians know that cozying up to anyone considered part of big business is dangerous territory. This fear has been internalized in many of our minds. We criticize politicians who have a connection to it. Though Google says it isn’t evil, why should it have a White House connection, especially now that Google is running into anti-trust concerns?
But here’s why we would be foolish to discount Page because of our big business fears: any old technology scholar can’t write policy initiatives. We need someone who knows the blood and guts of the issue, not just the cosmetics. Page is that person.
Kate Peabody is an LSA senior and a Daily associate editorial page editor.