Think Big

You may very well, and with good reason, mistrust how much and what Google wants to know about you in order, from its point of view, to customize your user experience and/or, from your point of view, sell you to advertisers, but you cannot doubt that members of its organization have the capability to think big: after delivering fiber to cities that otherwise left wanting, [Google wants to build better airports, better cities, and defeat death][g], and they’ve started a new part of the company to make that happen, Google Y. There’s not much information on this new facet of Google, but I found the following [description of Google X Labs by Ricardo Prada][x] really insightful, and inspiring:

> Google X is a wonderland, not a utopia. We’re dealing with real-world, messy, awesome and occasionally mundane problems. We need creative people whose hands are stained with whiteboard ink, but who don’t take themselves too seriously. This stuff is fun. Don’t feel limited by the tools you used last. Be open to looking at new problems, and trying or learning new tools.

That’s the kind of place I want to work in/at/for. But, more importantly (and, sigh, perhaps more realistically), we should aim to make this happen more places. Really, the humanities need to get themselves out of a funk and begin thinking about themselves more as a lab, a skunk works, where you can both do pie-in-the-sky work but also how what you do can make a difference in the world, solve a problem, open up opportunities. [My own work][] in the realm of small text processing of real world texts seems to be gaining traction in various corners of the internet, and, I think folklore studies itself could become part of a more interesting conversation extending/revising things like natural language processing. I think Jason Jackson has been thinking big for a while when it comes to building a new infrastructure and a new way of looking at the world. Jason and I will be talking at the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society: look for the session on Thursday morning on [Open Folklore][].

[g]: http://www.theverge.com/2014/9/18/6375233/larry-page-wants-a-google-2-0-that-will-build-cities-and-airports
[x]: http://www.core77.com/blog/getting_hired/getting_hired_how_to_score_a_job_at_google_x_the_secret_lab_behind_glass_and_self-driving_cars_26282.asp
[Open Folklore]: http://openfolklore.org/
[My own work]: http://johnlaudun.org/20130221-text-analytics-101/

Leave a Reply