So if Google can actually deliver a car that can drive itself and a phone that acts as a translator for me, I will become a full-on MG Siegler-style fan boy for Google. Never mind the horrible transcription of Google Voice, the disappointing “Priority” in-box that sorts spam and ecommerce newsletters above emails from friends and the fact that they just cancelled Goog-411. (Apparently a service only I used.) Google’s boneheaded moves in China that did more harm than good? All forgiven.
Seriously: If I could have two wishes it would be a self driving car and some sort of mobile, auto-translation device. When I’m home in Silicon Valley I have tons of meetings on the peninsula and feel time in a car is wasted time. My mind wanders onto whatever story I am working on and pretty soon I’ve arrived at my destination with no memory of getting there. That in turn freaks me out and makes me think I’ll die in a fiery death one of these days thinking about a startup. I hate driving so much I’ll take an extra hour of public transportation just to avoid it.
When I travel, I don’t have the driving problem, but I am constantly trying to communicate in a language I don’t speak. I like to just wander around and discover a place without guides and I’m constantly miming things in frustration. Between the two, it’s like Google read my mind here. It’s uncanny. The two things that frustrate me most; two things I wouldn’t have thought a large commercially sound venture would try to fix.
Yesssss. This is exactly the kind of if I-had-three-wishes, Star Trek, futurist stuff I was hoping for when I wrote that the Valley was at a crossroads between media and science. Google may be the don’t-rock-the-boat-with-innovation incumbent in search, but the rest of the company has suddenly put itself back in the innovator category. (Take that, Peter Thiel!)
I never own stocks of any companies I write about, but I‘d be buying up Google simply as a contrarian bet. The odds they create another search-sized goldmine are way better with this kind of investment than a Johnny-come-lately social gaming platform. Most largecap stocks are barely budging by thinking quarter-to-quarter, making incremental changes to their products here-and-there, buying small startups in the name of innovation that they inevitably squash. Sign me up for a crazy, ballsy company using its cash to do things that seem insane. It’s like Lex Luthor or a James Bond Villian finding religion and then running a public company. It’s the exact opposite of the watch-your-ass short-term thinking that sunk the American public markets in the last decade.
Elon Musk wants to retire on Mars, but I’d settle for this planet getting more awesome. So while we’re creating a utopia…Here’s my wishlist, Google.
1. Why do I still have to carry a plastic laminated ID? There’s endless talk of the digital wallet with smartphones, keyfobs and other devices that allow you to pay all on mobile. Imagine: You leave the house with just your keys and a phone. Perfect. And yet, if I want to drive down to the corner market, I still have to carry a plastic Driver’s License. If I want to meet a friend at the corner bar, still have to fish out the License. If I want to run to the gym for a quick work out, gotta carry the License.The more technology means I don’t need a purse, the more the License is becoming an albatross. As a result, my License is forever getting lost or left in this pocket or that one. Truth be told, I have no clue where it is right now. Making matters worse: It’s an unnecessary albatross. If we can have the technology and security to put a credit card on a keyring or phone, why can’t we do the same for a Driver’s License? I always know where my phone is and I never seem to know where my License is, so I don’t see how a phone wouldn’t be more secure. Give me an opt-in digital option, and I will pay $100 more a year, easily.
2. Food in pill form. Look, I love to eat. I love to cook. I love everything about a great meal shared with great company. But some days I am just too busy to stop and eat. I have a horrible habit of skipping breakfast and lunch and then gorging on dinner which is horribly unhealthy. I can’t even be bothered to think about what I want to eat when I’m busy. This is more pronounced when I’m in other countries. Living out of a suitcase, you get weary of either rich hotel smorgasbord breakfasts or dodgy street food. If you spend a few days in Indian or African villages– it’s a near certainty that you’ll spend a few days lying on the floor of the bathroom in your near future. If I had a pill– like the Jetsons– and I could get all of my nutrients, make me feel satisfied and tide me to my next meal, I would pay $10 a pill and my productivity would go through the roof. Easily.
3. Teleportation. I know, I know it sounds crazy. It’s not like I’m asking a rocket pack or the ability to read people’s minds here. I just want to be instantly beamed to places. I mean, we didn’t think a search engine company would be making self-driving cars did we? The need for speedy business travel is only getting more pressing. The United States is increasingly relying on emerging markets for customers, for cheap labor, and– in the case of Wall Street and venture capitalists– for returns. The reason most of these ventures fail is people don’t understand other countries. You only get it by spending time there. Cisco’s telepresence video chats don’t cut it. We need a quick way to zip around the globe, and increasingly there’s a business case for it. You could tell me there was a teleportation unit, but there was a 20% risk you’d come out as a fly and I’d still jump at the chance to be a beta user. Easily.
So there you go. Deliver one more of my wishes, and I’ll become so rabidly pro-Google, I’ll even get a Eric Schmidt tattoo.