You can see why Google are keen on the concept - they've been pretty upfront about developing solutions to problems we didn't even know we had for some time now, at their own expense and often gifting the results to the planet - well, sort of gifting, anyway.
The Google Maps project was one such gift; the ability to see your own house without stepping outside is a solution to an unknown problem that we've all enjoyed - come on, of course you've looked up your own house, probably while sat in your own front room. In the process you've probably also enjoyed the solution to the previously unknown problem of how you got from work/pub/shops to your house, again from your favourite seat.
And of course there are a few tertiary problems that Google maps have been used for - getting a gander at the hotel you're visiting for the first time so that you recognise it as you sail past at fifty miles an hour - at least you now know you've passed it; without knowing what it looked like, we all drove on for tens of miles previously. The saving in fossil fuel since this was rolled out must be equivelant to the net worth of the Facebook IPO at least!
And of course as Google will know who you are looking at, and know where you are, they can develop cross selling intelligence for sale.
Then they invested in developing a driverless car - as science fiction-y as you could imagine. I'm guessing here, but I reckon some of the drive (no pun intended) of the Google maps project was always inteded for the driverless car. It's not as mature as their other projects yet, but I reckon a lot of car manufacturers are either talking to Google or trying to work out how they can do the same thing without having to pay too many licence fees to the giant. When the cars become mainstream you won't need to do the virtual journey from the pub to home; your car can do it for you.
But the new project is aimed a bit higher than that - it's attempting to solve those problems that have previously been considered impossible - the moonshot problems as Google calls them. Presumably the first item on their list will link all the way back to the Google Maps project I mentioned at the top of the blog - am I the only person to notice that all the Google Maps street views have black bin bags awaiting collection? We only collect every other week in the UK, so that implies their drivers followed the bin wagons or something went statistically very wrong on the project.
So what has all this got to do with the late, lamented Douglas Adams? Well, I hope most of you don't need reminding that Douglas was the author of The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, which featured a book that provided information on pretty much anything in the universe. It didn't claim to be 100% accurate and as far as I know it didn't bother overmuch if its citations were a little tardy. Which is why I prefer to think of your basic Google as the front-runner for the Hitch-Hikers Guide Earth-bound variant instead of the seemingly more obvious Wikipedia.
However the new project by Google, fantastic as it may sound, is actually a bit 'been there, done that', and again it's thanks to Douglas Adam's initiative. Because he was doing this several years before he died an untimely death. You can see what I mean here.
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