This diagram of a packet-switching network appears in the 1974 paper by Vint Cerf

What’s troubling Vint Cerf? Five-hundred year old WordPerfect files and a fifty-year trip to the cosmos, that’s what.

Vint Cerf has a problem: the star Alpha Centauri is too far away. He wants to get a good look at it, but at 4.37 light years from the sun, it might take a while. He’s not too worried, though, because he’s designing an interplanetary internet with Google. On Thursday in Washington, D.C., Mr. Cerf described the outer-space-net and some other personal projects to an assembly at Georgetown University, part of the National Medals Foundation’s “An Evening With” series. Mr. Cerf has been awarded more medals than he probably knows what to do with. I guess that happens when you get credit for inventing the internet – in 1974, Cerf and Robert Kahn co-authored a paper for the IEEE titled “A protocol for packet network intercommunication.” Forty-some years later, four billion humans are piggybacking their idea into five billion daily YouTube views, a three-hundred-billion dollar digital advertising market, and a …

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In Reality, Googling

Q&A With Google’s Eric Schmidt The line of audience members queuing up for their turn to throw a question at Eric Schmidt, Google’s Executive Chairman, seemed oddly like an inefficient search engine. There were so many things un-Googley about it, like having to wait for someone else to finish before I could ask a question, and having to get up out of my seat to get in line. Otherwise, the hour that Schmidt spent discussing his latest book “The New Digital Age,” with co-author Jared Cohen, covered much ground and put a human face on a company that often seems much more robotic than peopled. The book was just released in paperback and plastered with glowing reviews from statesmen including Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, Tony Blair and the like. In it, the authors Cohen and Schmidt attempt to map out a future which they label as humanity’s greatest experiment to …

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on Efficiency, Depression, Happiness, and Beer

The Google Ngram viewer charts the incidence of terms in 5.2 million books dating back centuries. It’s a pretty amazing tool. Choosing the words ‘efficiency‘ and ‘depression‘ I graphed their usage over the last 500 years. I found a close correlation between the terms, with both beginning to rise around 1750 and sharply peaking around 1925. As a control variable I also included ‘weather’, which showed little correlation to either efficiency or depression. Something to think about as we continue to make ourselves faster, better, and stronger! ****EDIT**** To avoid being too much of a downer on a Friday, I want to also include my findings on the relationship between happiness and beer. If this doesn’t demonstrate true progress, I don’t know what will – we’ve almost reached equilibrium! I don’t expect to break any ground with these findings, I just wanted to share what is a very fun set …

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the Fictionalizations of ‘the Google’

I had a colleague a few years ago who joked about how his aging parents always referred to Google, the search engine, as “the Google,” as if the internet giant had become an entity of such massive, generic proportion that it deserved its own “the..”, like “the city,” or “the ocean,” or “the internet.” The Google. Popular culture has been producing fictionalized narratives about what life at Google might be like, to complement the hordes of reportage documenting the reality of the company. For an account of how it came to be, and an outsider’s view of the founders, Ken Auletta’s non-fiction book “Googled” tells a fascinating story. But the real story of Google is about the people who work there, and what they are trying to accomplish. There are plenty of imaginary guesses as to what that’s like – in ‘The Internship,’ actors Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn actually …

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