Not entirely, no. While Sergey Brin has wasted hundreds of $millions of Google money pursuing the futile dream of intermittent unreliable green energy — when even Google’s own engineers say Brin’s plan won’t work — Google may be doing other things that will partially redeem the legacies of the Google founders.
For example, here are ten Google investments related to health care which may actually have a net positive impact on the world:
- A Computer System That Operates Similar to the Brain: In January 2014, Google acquired deep learning start-up, DeepMind. The plans around this partnership were quite secretive for some time, until recently, when they unveiled the Neural Turing Machine—a computer system that mimics the short-term memory of a human brain. Understanding the inner-workings of the brain continues to be one of the greatest challenges in neuroscience. The system learns as it stores memories and can later retrieve it for performing logical tasks. This neural network is based around the idea of creating a computer that simulates what happens in the human brain but making it more efficient.
- Smart Contact Lens for Diabetic Patients Google is partnering with global pharmaceutical company, Novartis and its Alcon eyewear division, to help diabetic patients manage their disease. The lens contains a low power microchip and hair-thin electronic circuit that measures blood sugar levels directly from tear fluid on the surface of the eyeball and transmits the data to a mobile device. Google’s 3D mobile technology is threaded throughout and they’re aiming to improve the quality of life for those suffering from diabetes.
- Unlocking the Secrets of Aging: Google recently created California-based company called Calico to focus on aging and age-related diseases. In September 2014, Calico announced $1.5 billion partnership with pharmaceutical company AbbVie to accelerate discovery, development and commercialization of age-related conditions such as neuro-degeneration (dementia, Alzheimer’s) and cancer.
- Cancer and Heart Attack Detecting Pill: Google researchers are currently working to develop a nanoparticle pill that could identify certain types of cancers, heart attack and potentially other diseases earlier. Magnetic nanoparticles (less than one-thousandth the width of a red blood cell) would circulate through the blood to detect and report signs of cancer or an imminent heart attack. Taking it a step further, Google is also making synthetic skin, similar to human skin, to test the pill.
- Genome Storage in the Cloud: We’re all familiar with Google’s online storage services such as Google Drive. Well now, the company is extending this service to storing genomes in a quest to help hospitals and university laboratories store their client’ genomes in the cloud. They’re calling this Google Genomics and charging $25 per year. Google will keep a copy of any genome in the cloud to eventually allow open access to millions of genomes and run efficient analyses.
- Robotic Surgery Platform: As a surgeon who uses rotor technology, I am intrigued by Google’s plans to partner with Johnson & Johnson to create the next advanced robotic-assisted surgery platform. In the hands of Google’s semi-secret research team, Google X, this next platform could seek to expand real-time image analysis that would give surgeons better vision around the edges of nerves or tumors. With Google involved, this system will benefit from the significant amount of data they’ve gathered from extensive research and development in robotics. From self-driving cars, artificial intelligence and strong vision technologies stemmed from Google Glass, this system could prove to be quite revolutionary.
- Google Glass for Doctors: Even though many believe Google Glass failed as a consumer product, it still may have many uses for healthcare providers. For those who don’t know, Google Glass is a wearable device with an optical head-mounted display that shows information in a smartphone-like hands free way. I believe Google Glass has the potential to perform many operational tasks in healthcare in order to streamline complex processes such as gathering and updating patient data in real time. For example, Augmedix was an app developed for Google Glass and it automatically takes notes for doctors, allowing them to concentrate solely on the patient. It also could prove to aid in surgery and become a potential useful tool for surgeons, and other surgery team members in the operating room. For now, Google has temporarily tabled Glass, but who knows, the next time you visit your doctor, maybe he or she will have a new pair of specs.
- Relevant Medical Facts in Search Results: Google most all health conditions like Type I Diabetes and you will be served a menu of information related to the condition through Google’s Knowledge Graph Panel found on the right side of search results. Everything from how many people per year are diagnosed to treatment options. Some even use graphics to display symptoms and treatments visually. The intention is to bring basic information related to your search that may lead to an easier search around the web or help you know which questions to ask your doctor. They disclose that this information is not intended to be medical advice but they did work with a team of medical doctors to carefully compile, curate and review the information. The hope is to empower the patient regarding their health decisions and educate around more common conditions.
- Google Fit: Head on over to, sign in with your Gmail or Google account and you’ll join Google’s latest health service. Google Fit plans to collect and aggregate data from popular fitness trackers and health mobile apps, directly competing with Apple’s new Health Kit. Google intends to integrate this with a wearable device that measures data like steps or heart rate. Along with the Apple Watch, and other wearable technology, creating these types of health platforms for the masses has raised concerns over privacy and how best to process sensitive health data while also providing valuable feedback.
- Making medical records shareable: At the TED2014 conference in Vancouver, Google co-founder Larry Page eluded to Google’s interest in making medical records public. Information sharing is threaded throughout tech in many different ways, but the idea of it being integrated into healthcare is a bit daunting, especially when we look at HIPPA violations. He commented on the records being available anonymously to research doctors and scientists “We’d save 100,000 lives this year. We’re not really thinking about the tremendous good which can come from people sharing information with the right people in the right ways,” said Page. Obviously, this comes with many privacy concerns, however the potential data scientists could have access to, is quite astonishing and could potentially lead to better clinical studies around diseases that affect millions like heart disease, cancer and others.
Of course, if Google’s founding billionaires really wanted to “not be evil” and help boost an abundant and expansive human future, it would drop all of the “green energy nonsense” and do what Peter Thiel
and Elon Musk are doing: Finance the development of clean, safe, affordable, scalable, efficient, and reliable nuclear reactors. They might even throw a bit of money into the pursuit of small fusion power.
We admit that the Al Fin Institutes have not entirely forgiven Google for shutting down the Al Fin blogspot blogs — in an irrational politically correct Google fit of pique at Al Fin’s irreverent attitude toward the search engine giant and the world in general. But it is also true that Google’s Lunar XPRIZE has helped to stimulate the development of more affordable space technologies.
Perhaps it is time for Google to learn to become a truly great company, and use its cash hoards to push innovation to truly remarkable levels — and close its evil, politically correct, and corrupt green energy quagmire rat-hole.