Real World Knowledge


Today is Google’s 12th birthday. So is today the birthday of an iconic Communist revolutionary of the Indian Freedom struggle, Bhagat Singh, hanged for waging war against the British Empire, on March 23, 1931. The discriminatory nature of the historical eye is such, that all events in time and space are calibrated differently on the historical scale so that today the world, and indeed even India, remember only Google’s founding day and less so that of the birthday of one of the important dramatis personae of its history as a modern nation. A week from now, the nation would also be celebrating the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, again highlighting  the discriminatory vision of history. Nobody is to be blamed for this. It is just the nature of the beast called History. No need to repeat what scholars of historiography have said on the subject, but it is well known that not every event makes history, and the suggestions of subaltern historian to write history from the bottom, although makes fine material for a model of intellectual counter-hegemony in the Gramscian sense, have never really been translated successfully into any tangible, substantive, intelligible history writing. Perhaps it cannot be, regardless of the honesty of the intellectual pursuit may be. With no passionate narrative thread such as that of the overriding concern for self-preservation of the Nation State, what sinews can hold together millions after millions of disparate and isolated tales of human experiences.

Whatever the objection to the discriminatory nature of History, can anybody deny that Google’s 12 years of life has not been an important historical landmark? There is today hardly anybody literate enough to read and write and have even a semblance of knowledge of the cyber world, whose life has not been touched most profoundly by Google, the internet search engine founded by two brilliant Ph.D. students of Stanford University, Sergei Brin and Larry Page. Quite amazingly, as David A. Vise, the official biographer of the Google story wrote in “The Google: (Inside the Hottest Business, Media and Technology Success of Our Times), Google search engine is the practical application of the two co-founders’ Ph.D. thesis on the method of sorting out information on the internet based on a hierarchy of most referred information, or “page ranking”. The two are today multi-billionaires two years before they have touched 40, and their fortune as well as business empire is expanding phenomenally. They are not only inventers of unparalleled geniuses, but also seasoned businessmen by instinct. They have worked out an ingenious way of making money from advertisers. Every time somebody who uses the Google search engine clicks on a sponsored link on the right side of the search pages, divided from the neutral search results by a thin vertical line, they earn money. Since somebody or the other somewhere on earth would be clicking on these links practically every second, they earn money even when they are sleeping, or playing beach volleyball. Care to know what the most popular search is. It has to do with something everybody possesses – ego. Few who know of Google have not tried searching his or her own name on Google. But don’t be flattered by the result, for all the hits are not references to you alone, for Google would be searching not just your full name but also parts of them as well. If you want an honest look at your popularity on the internet, take David A. Vise’s advice and put your name within quotation marks and search. This way the result will reflect only direct hits on your name alone.

The other inspiration and lesson from Google should be a consideration of what Sanford University does. The university has a business application department where students are encouraged to set up business models of their technological invention and are extended laboratory facilities to pursue them, as well as nurture the products till they have developed sturdy enough legs to stand on their own and compete in the big, cruel, open market. Some of the other enterprises that took birth as the university’s laboratories are SUN Microsystems (SUN in fact stands for Stanford University Network) and Yahoo. Our universities and colleges may not have the resources of Stanford, but they too must, to the extent possible, begin linking their courses to the real world of applied technology, science and business. Why imitate? somebody may ask. Well, as the Americans say, don’t argue with success.

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