As long as there have been towns in America, there has been somebody who wants to scrap the whole idea and build a new one. These range from relative successes like Reston, Virginia, to outright disasters like Pullman, Illinois. But no matter how much things change, people dream of building a town to their specifications, no matter how obviously nightmarish it is, and Google appears to be the latest to be pulled into the idea.
Technically, this is Google’s “parent company” Alphabet, and it’s an imitative from Sidewalk Labs, a company focused on urban infrastructure technology. To be fair, the CEO, former New York deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff, doesn’t outright say Google is building a town, but he does note that they need broader scales to test their ideas on. If you’re wondering why this is such a problem, keep in mind Google had to fight the city of San Francisco over whether or not cell phones cause brain cancer. They don’t, if you were wondering, but you can’t blame Google for thinking maybe their own fiefdom is a good idea after that particular legal battle.
That said, there are a lot of pitfalls here. Contrary to the dearly held beliefs of business types, running a city is far more complicated and demands different skills than running a business. Unlike a business, everybody in the city is your customer, from the nice people at the coffee shop to the guy hoping to find a muffin in the dumpster out back. Google, on the other hand, is the company that made a face-mounted device to tell people Twitter was more interesting than talking to them. It’s really not difficult to imagine Googlopolis going horribly awry the minute anybody who isn’t an upper-class nerd appears. One hopes Google realizes that and focuses instead on testing their technology in real cities. But, if not, we can at least hope it won’t go all Rapture on us.
(via The Information)