Thursday, December 06, 2007

Google Guy, Doing Evil

Google Wedding Seizes Island

No, that is not a headline parody from The Onion.

It is the Page Six headline in yesterday’s New York Post—the Official Newspaper of Record here at NotMakingThisUp.

You are forgiven if you think the following details of the story are more appropriate for, say, The Donald than for a smart young man whose company’s informal code of conduct is, literally, “Don’t Be Evil”:

The wedding this Saturday of Google co-founder Larry Page on a tiny Caribbean island is a logistical nightmare for planners who are flying in 600 guests on private planes and trying to find deluxe hotel rooms for all the bigwigs….

[Wedding planners] “had to book all the hotels on the neighboring island of Virgin Gorda….so that Page’s wedding could be completely private.”

Indeed, some readers of NotMakingThisUp might recall that just last week Google announced an ambitious clean energy plan called “Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal” in a
press release containing four full paragraphs quoting Mr. Page, starting with this one:

“We have gained expertise in designing and building large-scale, energy-intensive facilities by building efficient data centers,” said Larry Page, Google Co-founder and President of Products. “We want to apply the same creativity and innovation to the challenge of generating renewable electricity at globally significant scale, and produce it cheaper than coal.”

Yet nowhere in the Google press release was it mentioned that Mr. Page has had to apply 'creativity and innovation' to the challenge of putting dozens of private jets in the air for the noble purpose of having a really awesome wedding in the British Virgin Islands.

But creativity and innovation are precisely what has been required, because this wedding is no last-minute, “let’s go to Branson’s place” whim of the eligible Mr. Page coming on the heels of a Britney Spears-type Lost Weekend in Vegas: in fact, The Post reports that Mr. Page’s “planners” have been “working six months in advance” on the nuptials.

Hey, it takes time to coordinate the CO2-dumping logistics of inefficient private jet travel for 600 people!

In fact, those jets will discharge anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 pounds of CO2 per hour of flight—depending on what size jets the 600 fab guests take—while sucking down 200 to 500 gallons of fuel every sixty minutes.

Of course, those are pikers compared to the rather large Boeing 767 wide-body Mr. Page shares with Sergey Brin, which they keep parked at Moffett Field across Route 101 for things like, well, flying inefficiently to Necker Island just because they can.

Long-time readers know that I’m a fan of Google’s business model, particularly the company’s entirely un-Microsoftian method of innovation—which is to hire the best engineers and give them big targets to shoot for…but also to let them spend 20% of their time on whatever excites them.

If and when those engineers come up with something useful—like, say, Google Maps or Google Mail or Google Scholar or Google Documents—the company throws it out there as a 'beta' product so real people can use it and help the company refine it into a mass market product.

That kind of free-wheeling, market-driven methodology draws unrestrained contempt from the promise-the-world-and-give-an-unattainable-but-market-freezing-deadline types in Redmond, but it’s certainly worked in Mountain View.

As long-time readers also know, I believe we’re firmly in the grips of a human-caused climate warming easily observable in the alarming, everyday changes right outside our doors.

Consequently, I thought Google’s “renewable energy” announcement last week was a nice, positive, worthwhile step forward by a company with the money and the smarts to come up with something more helpful than the chirpy newspaper ads favored by BP and other green-acting companies.

And we’ll need something helpful faster than anybody thinks: just today scientists from Mr. Page’s alma mater—Stanford University—released a study suggesting climate change could cause nearly a third of bird species to go extinct within a hundred years.

Seems to me that by putting hundreds of private jets in the air for the sole purpose of getting together on a private island several thousand miles from his home to say "I do," Mr. Page is, in his own way, doing precisely what the company he co-founded expects its own people not to do: a
kind of evil.

Jeff Matthews
I Am Not Making This Up

© 2007 NotMakingThisUp, LLC

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Matthews. Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews' recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes investment advice, nor is it a solicitation of business in any way. It is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.


Ryan said...

As a quick response to your CO2 released in flight stat:

If you figure that the average flight length to this island was ~5 hours, and that there were 300 flights (600 people, assume they're married, I suppose). That makes a total of 600 5 hour flights.

This results in 15,000 tons of CO2 being released into the atmosphere (as a high end estimate).

If you compare that to a 400 MW pulverized coal power plant, which powers ~300,000 homes, that amount of CO2 corresponds to 26 hours of operation by the coal power plant.

So, yes, Larry Page's wedding caused a days worth of coal CO2 to be put into the atmosphere, but, that's still just a drop in the bucket compared to the CO2 output of power stations.

fivetonsflax said...

Funny you should mention that. I was just posting today about the philosophical flaws in the concept of "don't *be* evil". (My feeling is that "don't *do* evil" is a more testable goal.)

Goldenpiggie said...

Common, Mr. Mathews, how often does a guy get married? Ok, maybe nowadays multiples times. Still, it's his _first_. Give the rich guy a break!

Maybe Mrs. Page-to-be wanted a fairy-tale wedding, and Mr. Page, in a fit of puppy love, decides to indulge his bride.

PT said...

Jeff, this is really fyi, not really a post - thanks for bringing it up. I concur completely. I am re-reading Sterling Lanier's Hiero's Journey published in 1973 and he was using global warming as a plot device even then. It's not like this is really new, nor is the conspicuous consumption that is bringing it about new either.

Chips Whitesugar said...

It is not, not has it been, nor will it be, "climate change" that is the problem. Rather, it is the unrestrained increase in human population that is destroying the planet. Until we start trading reproduction credits rather than carbon credits, the problem will never be truly addressed.

David said...

I'd like to say, first, that I'm impressed that you attract psychopaths like the previous commenter "chips whitesugar" to the site. I guess you have a pretty broad audience. Apparently Mr. Whitesugar still believes in the Malthusian view of economics that nobody else really buys. I would direct him to the wikipedia page on the famous Ehrlich-Simon wager, because he obviously never heard about it.

Also, while convinced that climate change is certainly something that needs to be addressed by humans on this Earth, it strikes me as a bit, excuse my phrase here, idiotic, to try and make a conclusion about a time series that runs millions of years by observing the changes outside your door over the last 20 years. I had a very liberal statistics/game theory professor at Wharton (Dean Foster) who rode a bike to his classes. He was the first to admit (this was about five years ago) that there's no way to use empirical observations to draw any conclusions about global warming. The only intelligent way to go about it would be to actually analyze the nature of the effect of carbon molecules on temperature and apply the results on a wider basis. For you to try to draw conclusions about an enormously volatile time series over millions of years from a period of time that basically amounts to an anecdote, reminds me of Mike Mauboussin's observation that "the plural of anecdote is not evidence." I think, Jeff, you should know better.

Jeff Matthews said...

I always find it odd that global warming is painted as a liberal vs conservative debate.

Personally, I couldn't care less what a "liberal" professor said about global warming any more than what a "conservative" professor said.

And as for ignoring what's all around us--the environment--perhaps the only thing more "idiotic" than paying attention to how the North American planting seasons have moved north in the span of 50 years, which any gardener could tell you about, would be to ignore it.

As Yogi said, you can see a lot just by watching.

As Dylan said, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

And in my mind, you don't need a scientist--liberal, conservative, or agnostic--to tell you it's not random.

Chips Whitesugar said...

Resorting to name calling does not further debate. David is being disingenuous. The Ehrlich-Simon wager is a flawed example as it looked at a period during which cheap, plentiful energy sources were available. This is no longer the case as we have likely passed the point of peak oil extraction from the planet. The stuff will hit the fan sooner rather than later and excess carbon will not be the problem.

Glen said...

Don't know what David is smoking, but to call someone a 'psychopath' for stating that population growth is responsible for the destruction of our planet, suggests the inhalation of something pretty noxious. I happen to agree with chips, the growth of humanity, fueled by cheap and plentiful energy (primarily fossil fuels) IS driving climate change and global warming. The data are out there for everyone to study, with hundreds if not thousands of peer reviewed scientific articles concluding that the planet is warming faster and to a greater degree than the normal historical cycles would predict. The world population was estimated to be about 800 million in 1600 AD, 1.6 billion three hundred years later in 1920, and now, after a mere ninety years since, 6.5 billion. This growth has been facilitated by cheap (but finite) fossil fuels.

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." -- Albert Bartlett, Professor Emeritus of Physics, University of Colorado.

Bruce said...

imo, global warming, aka the destruction of life on this planet, including man himself, was first set in motion when Adam & his lovely companion Eve, first took bites of that forbidden fruit of the now famous apple tree, of Bible lore. The knowledge from this fruit of the tree of knowledge, began the separation of man from his environment, out of paradise, out being one or in harmony with the world.

And thru knowledge we attempt to solve the problems that knowledge has created, such as global warming or mans separation of himself from the rest of creation.

Until man returns to harmony with the rest of life on planet earth, we are doomed.

Enjoy your house, as it burns.

Good day & good luck.

nycmike26 said...

I know the global warming issue is close to your heart. Taking out the hyper-intellectual side of the debate - I don't doubt that we've seen temperature fluctuations - I just don't 100% believe that they're man-made and not "normal."


plaza said...

The global warming debate takes on liberal vs. conservative labels because the discussion has become so politicized. And the most vocal on this issue tend to be those who believe that global warming is caused by humans.

Interestingly, there are scientists that actually want to find the truth--regardless of what the truth is. Here is an interesting paper on the debate.