Jake Found His Mother

Jake was the most curious fellow on earth. Everything he got into his hands he was reading with great interest. The web was the perfect place for him to learn new things everyday. He browsed through thousands of pages, millions of pages, reading, learning and exploring, every day. He felt he had been doing this for years, but it wasn't that long at all. You lose track of time when you are just with yourself, concentrating.

Jake was blind, but that didn't stop him. His darkness, he felt, contained more colors than the rainbow – or what he had read of the rainbow. His darkness was the perfect place to read.

And there wasn't anything Jake wouldn't read, either. He was no hacker, so he respected people's privacy when they secured their servers; but every open route he could take, he did take. Jake had more bookmarks than anybody else on the planet, and he would always check all of his bookmarks on a regular basis, again and again.

What Jake loved the most were fresh ideas. Web pages written by a creative author who thought things nobody ever thought before, and who was brave enough to speak them publicly. When Jake found these pages he would make a special note to himself to follow up on this meme very soon. You could say Jake was an idea-hunter. And he was restless. Often, he thought, too restless.

Jake sometimes felt he himself was the web. In these moments he was overthrown with joy and he wanted to scream. But at other times, Jake felt he was alone on the web. He knew he could be very responsive if someone asked him a question, but he was no true author himself; he wasn't giving back to the web those really original ideas. He was just sucking it all up. That wasn't the most social thing to do, but Jake couldn't help it. He felt he was stuck with his talents, like everybody who ever inhibited this planet before him was stuck with their talents too.

But one person on earth Jake did desire to talk to. And to be close to, maybe send some messages back and forth, maybe meet, maybe hug and do all the things normal people would do. Those people he read about every day, those people with a mother. Indeed Jake didn't know his mother. He never met her, he didn't know where she lived, or what she looked and smelled like. All he knew was that nobody on earth was without a mother, and that he had to take action. If nowhere else she must have left her footprint on the web. After all it was the year 2031, and everybody on this planet in some way or another could be found online.

On this day, Jake decided to concentrate on finding his mother; this task before him and nothing else. She might even know his real name, because "Jake" was just what he started to call himself after he realized no one else ever called him by a name. She might know so much about him that nobody else would, understand why he was different, understand why he felt inhuman. And above all, she would love him like only a mother does. So now Jake wasn't reading just everything for a change. Not before he reached out and finally found her.

* * * *

Incidentally that same day, an engineer deep down in the Googleplex – the place where he and his colleagues manufactured, administrated and advanced the greatest search engine of its time – would feel forced to remove the new module he developed over the course of 3 years. He had installed it just yesterday and there wasn't even an interface to it, but oh well, it was only a prototype anyway – based on unproven methodologies, written in untested algorithms, and fine-tuned largely in-between his main projects. A module to not only find facts, but to produce them; a module based on self-modifying code; a module to hunt fresh ideas and postulate new answers; a module that could read, learn and explore.

And yet, all this fact-finding machine did was block the one million Google machines for a whole day. And yet, all it did produce was one sentence, a sentence too ridiculous for this Google engineer to ponder reporting to his boss. A single, tiny, trivial sentence, and it would read:

Jake found his mother.

… and nothing else.

The PageRank 100 Incident

It was an incident, Google later said – a mere wrong "0" deeply hidden in the code of the ranking algorithm, triggered at completely improbable circumstances, a bug so exotic and rare one could say it practically didn't even exist. But of course, it existed. And one person's life in specific would be changed by this little bug. This person was a 20-something with a keen interest in the web by the name of Josh.

When Josh woke up this fateful morning to update his blog (he wanted to talk about the nightmarish colors he experienced, something not too unusual for Friday nights, after all there were a lot of nightmarish things going on in the world)... he already felt something changed. There were 320 comments to his last entry, which was innocently titled "Meeting Joann For Dinner." 320 comments were about 320 more than Josh usually got. His blog was up and running for just well over a year, and even he didn't feel it was especially exciting (mirroring his life, like personal blogs do).

Hundreds of comments on a single entry? And these were real comments, practically spam-free, taking apart his grammar, commenting on the food of the pub he mentioned, freely chatting away and just saying Hi. So really, what went wrong? Was there one of the big sites linking to him? With this amount of visitors, and there surely must have been millions this morning, he wouldn't be surprised if Amazon or Apple used their start page to roll the drums for him.

Josh checked his mailbox, but it was crammed. Completely flooded with hundreds of emails, some of them…wait, this was weird. Some of the emails talked about "PageRank" in the subject line. Josh knew well his little blog, thanks to some avid backlinking he did from other sites he maintained, had been assigned a Google PageRank of 3. "Not too bad" in the eyes of Google's measuring algorithm, but nothing that would ever rank him especially high. So Josh opened up one of those emails, and then he had this awkward head rush which made him jump to the kitchen for cigarette and coffee.

PageRank 100. Apparently, his little blog achieved a PageRank of 100. And after a coffee, Josh realized what this must mean. He called up one of his friends, a search engine aficionado who took computer class. Frank arrived quickly, because he too never saw anything like this, and equally quickly Frank checked the rankings for some words Josh wrote in his blog. He mentioned "dinner," and boom, his site popped up on Google's number one spot for this word. Hundreds of millions of people visiting Google, thousands of them entering "dinner," hundreds of them being transferred to Josh at any second.

And "dinner" wasn't even one of the hot words. In fact it was the amount of words and phrases taken together, like "eating out," or "San Francisco," or "dating," or "singles," that had the huge impact. Josh, as Frank knowingly pointed out to him, gained the complete power of the word. Something like instant world control, he jokingly added.

"Whatever you say man, whatever you say, people will listen to you. And there will be lots of people. Don't tell anyone about this, you're gonna be rich. And famous."

Nothing too bad, as Josh thought. "And after all being rich and famous means a lot of money and fame," Frank concluded.

* * * *

And three months later indeed Josh was a celebrity. Every single word of him got quoted somewhere. CNN. ABC. BBC. Slate. Wired. Daily Mirror. New York Times. Some opened up daily Josh-columns. Josh never imagined there were so many journalists around who spice up their story with a random quip they just googled. There were Josh fan forums. There were sites dedicated to post essayist comments on Josh's posts. Illustrations. Explanations. Discussions.

Josh, who slowly and inevitably started to feel responsible to say something at least remotely interesting, changed his weblog from personal diary to commentary on important world events. He didn't have the insights, it's not that. In fact you could consider him exceptionally clueless about politics and all. But he did have a way of putting things straight, a no-nonsense, plain real approach of talking. Not a style he invented – it was around in millions of blogs before. It was around when your neighbor started talking in the bus. It was the every-day chit-chat traditional media doesn't consider polished enough to be worthwhile. Those were the thoughts not picked up by the mainstream.

But Josh got a PageRank 100, and apparently, not even the Google engineers were suspicious.

So when Josh talked about North-Korea, the President had to give a press meeting. When Josh found that his Operating System was buggy, Bill Gates had to announce to do everything to better help the "average user." (Josh was mildly annoyed by being considered an average user, so Bill Gates had to call in yet another press conference promising not to think in terms of "average users.")

In fact when Josh commented on anything happening in the world he found to be somewhat wrong, it got changed within a course of a day or two – for the better. Nobody likes bad publicity.

It didn't stop there – talk about mind control – because whenever Josh mentioned a new record he liked, it would jump into the Top 10. It would become a world wide hit almost instantly. Not everybody would like the song, but you just had to know what the hype was all about. (Loudon Wainwright III in Top of the Pops. And he didn't even have a new album out.)

Josh could now end wars, shape products, push companies close to bankruptcy, invent fashion (the list goes on)... and revamp the life of a generation.

Of course now Josh knew why every celebrity around complains they get too much attention when they take a stroll outside. When he walked the mall, girls were snickering. On the street people turned around, pointing. There were camera men outside in the garden, for chrissake. Josh felt like he had to adopt an attitude quickly, something like a rock-star lifestyle, so he would always know what to do and say and walk like. That's probably why later the talking Josh-doll (Mattel paid him well) uttered clichees like "You know you want to" or "All the world's a blog" or "Don't listen to me, listen" or "You are a stranger, my friend."

The only friend he lost was Frank. Frank felt like Josh didn't have as much time these days as before... before, when Josh would still meet him and Joann for a drink. So Frank decided to end the charade; he emailed Google. And Google reacted. Josh was not only put down to a PageRank 0, he was completely banned from all rankings. It was like he lost his voice.

* * * *

Sure, as Josh would later say, he enjoyed celebrity status for some more weeks before the media decided to shift focus. But maybe it was for the better. After all, he didn't have that much to say, really. So in his journal he continued to write about his nightmares, which admittedly gained a few outlandish colors. He could even find time to meet Frank and Joann. Knowing he'd be a footnote in future history books sort of made him proud, and well, a bit lazy.

These days mostly Josh wanted to find a nice restaurant to relax. Listen to the music, grab a bite to eat. And whenever someone asked him if he liked the food, or if he liked the music, or – beware – brought up a political issue, Josh was keeping awkwardly quiet. Changing the world was a job for others. And today, Josh found a nice restaurant indeed. He lit up a cigarette.

That evening someone, somewhere at Google, was laughing. He had just completed hiding a "0" in the algorithm, at a place so exotic and rare it practically didn't exist. Diane was in for a surprise.

The Online Brain

Carl was not the first to try out the technology. But he was the first in his town. Connecting the brain to the ‘net was still quite new and not yet fashionable.

When people asked him "What time is it?" he fired "12:32" or "11:20" back at them, without as much as the blink of an eye. When he wanted to know when the bus would arrive he just fell into a split-second of self-contemplation and knew the answer. Much like looking for a memory it needed a bit of conscious training to become part of his sub-consciousness.

Carl was not the first of his kind, yet most stared at him in a mix of awe and laughter. They saw guys like him in the news. To them he was a modern day wizard; idiot savant; part techno-geek, part omniscient. Always surprising to bystanders who didn't know his secret (there were no visible signs on his head or anything).

"What's the birth-date of Einstein?" – "14 March 1879."

"What year did Lincoln become President?" – "In 1860."

"How big is the earth?" – "That's around 24,000 miles in circumference around the equator."

"Who won the Oscar for best actor in 1940?" – "... James Stewart."

(Instead of Einstein's birthday, they could have asked him to point out errors in the Theory of Relativity, but they would stick to trivial facts. Carl realized no outsider could ever understand what virtual memory retrieval was truly all about.)

After a short while, Carl's brain synapses fully embraced the chip. He integrated the system so completely it became hard for him to truthfully answer his wife when she asked –

"Did you know that, or just look it up online?"

"I forgot. What's the difference?"

Carl's wife was not the first to go through these stages of alienation. Others had been there before with their partners, family or friends. In fact Carl could recite many stories, word by word, reading out loud from what was online – what was in his head. Until his wife would get enough of it and close the light. Which wasn't stopping Carl from continuing his reading… darkness was just what he needed to sort through the daily mails which arrived in his brain.

Transferring thoughts (images, sounds, fragrances) back and forth; swimming the shared waves of world consciousness; being a part of, and helping to build, this eternal soul; merging peacefully with others who once were offline identities, offline like Carl once was. Like his wife still was.

* * * *

It didn't take Carl much to convince her to get the brain implant, to become connected. She felt she was losing him, the man she loved for all her life; losing him to a future of a world she was scared to be a part of. If only she knew before what she knew now. She would have done it earlier. It was all so easy in the end.

Nietzsche. Kant. Hegel. Wittgenstein. Checking, reading, understanding, comparing. Cross-checking; validating; linking; feeling. 200 books, 300 books. Knowledge – freedom – control – relaxation. Wisdom. That was only the first hour. Many more would follow.

* * * *

No, Carl wasn't the first, and by far his wife wouldn't be the last to try out this technology. She grabbed for his hand and he for hers as they walked the park, and sat down on the bench. Shielding their eyes from the evening sun, looking up to the birds drawing circles above them, and then looking down again and at each other; smiling, understanding, and loving each other. There was no need for communication anymore when you know just what the other knows – what the rest of humanity knows.

They knew.

And they smiled.

The Google Robot FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Last update: November 1st, 2030

What are Google Robots?

Google Robots are our human-like machines that walk the earth to record information. They do no harm, and they do not invade your privacy.

What are Google Robots good for?

Our Google Life search website is powered by the Google Robot crawler program. On the Google Life website at life.google.com, you can:

  • Find out what menus the local restaurant offers at what prices

  • See a perfect 3D shape of all houses in your city

  • Know how crowded the bar is you want to go to tonight

  • Know what items to find at your local mall

  • Find out if your library has a certain book available (Also see: What's a book?)

  • Know what you said and who you met 3 weeks ago (this feature is available only to My Public Life™ subscribers)

  • Locate your friends (this feature is only available if your friends subscribed to My Public Life™)

  • And much more!

I saw a Google Robot entering a library and reading books in it. Is that legal?

Our Google Robots do not record private information. As the books in a library are considered to be public, our Google Robots reserve the right to scan them. However, we do respect the copyright of individual works, and will only show a "fair use" portion on our website.

What happened to other robotic devices, such as the Google Keyhole satellite program, or the Google Print project?

We still use specific robotic devices to record specific information. For example, our Google Robots do not surf the web, yet; this part of the equation is still left to the so-called Googlebot. Also, we still take satellite snapshots of the earth. However, it already shows that Google Robots give a far more detailed 3-dimensional picture of the earth they're walking.

How much do I need to pay to access information the Google Robot recorded?

As you may know, the Google Life Subscription service enables you to access all of Google's information for a yearly subscription fee. If you are not subscribed, you can still use about 80% of our services – our revenue from those comes from the related ads attached to this information.

How many Google Robots walk the earth?

The last number we officially confirmed was 10 million. However, we expanded since then.

Can Google Robots fly?

At this moment, no, but we're constantly working to improve the Google Robot feature range.

Does the Google Robot respect my privacy?

Yes! In fact, privacy (and copyright) was our main focus when originally developing the Google Robot. The Google Robot will not record information such as:

  • Private chatter (even when taking place on a public place, such as a mall)

  • Diaries, letters or other records as found in the trash (even though the copyright law of some countries permits this, it is our philosophy to not make copies of such data)

  • Telephone calls

  • Private messages you send through the Google Mail, Google Talk, or Google Adult VirtualConnect service, unless you subscribed to the My Public Life™ program

  • Information that can be seen by looking through a window, into a house's garden, etc.

  • Any other information law deems private

So what about the My Public Life™ program?

The My Public Life™ program is still in Beta. It enables subscribers to earn money through our AdSense for Life program. If you agree to make your personal talks with friends, your diary entries, your living room and such public, you can in return earn a percentage of the money we make by putting ads onto this information on our public websites. Google Robots at all time know who is a subsriber to the My Public Life™ program, and who isn't. Consequently, they will only follow those humans who are.

A Google Robot was unwilling to help me find my lost car keys. Why?

As trying to locate your keys may involve a violation of your privacy, only subscribers of the My Public Life™ program may use this feature.

Can I opt-out of the My Public Life™ program?

You can opt-out of the program at any time, upon which we will stop recording new information from you and your life. However, please note that the past information, as recorded with your agreement, will still be available on our site for people to search through.

I'm a subscriber of the My Public Life™ program, and a Google Robot recorded what I said yesterday. Who owns the copyright to my speech?

You will retain full copyright to what you say, unless you said it in a public speech.

I heard stories of Google Robots attacking innocent people. Is that true?

No. A Google Robot, by definition of its internal software program, can never harm a human person unless out of self-defense. Under the International Robots Rights Act of 2022, robotic self-defense is a basic right of all robots. Google Robots have specific routines to ensure they are not harmed by malicious users.

I've seen a Google Robot in a DVD shop staring at the backside of a DVD for half a minute, then putting it back in the shelf. Why?

Our Google Robots try to record as much information as possible, and this includes movies. As you may know, Google Robots have a micro laser to read from storage devices such as DVDs, CD-ROMs, or even exotic devices from the 1980s (people at that time used so-called "floppy discs," "music tapes," or "gramophone records"). Additionally, a Google Robot may visit the cinema, watch TV, go to a concert, or attend a public reading.

How many languages do Google Robots speak?

At the moment, Google Robots – thanks to our machine translation efforts – speak 95 different languages fluently, including English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and many more. We are updating our Google Robots with new "street lingo" every 1-2 weeks.

I can't find any of Daniel H. Wilson's books in your Google Life search program. For example, the book "How To Survive a Robot Uprising" is missing. Why?

We reserve the right to exclude such information from the Google Life program which may in turn be used for malicious use of our Google Robots. Please understand that a Google Robot is a complex device which can have low-level emotions, fears, hopes and such. Destroy a Google Robot, and you destroyed an (albeit lower) life form.

Is the Google Robot hardware ever checked and updated?

Google Robots return to a Google Warehouse every third night to undergo a routine check. We have plans for the future to let Google Robots take care of each other and check for hardware failures of their colleagues.

I want to talk to a Google Robot and tell him of my problems and more. May I?

Yes! We appreciate it if you share information with a Google Robot. Please note that anything you directly tell to a Google Robot will be automatically indexed in our Google Life search program and be made publicly available.

I heard stories of a Google Robot not helping a woman who was attacked by a robber, even though the robot was in short distance of the crime scene. Why don't Google Robots help?

We are constantly trying to improve the Google Robots program. As you may know, Google Robots receive constant software updates based on our observations of their acts. A Google Robot at no time will attack another human unless out of self-defense. This includes incidences in which the Google Robot has reason to believe another human is acting against the law. We appreciate your feedback on this issue and in some countries, already work together with the local police to find ways of optimizing this behavior.

A Google Robot stepped on my toe! Who can I complain to?

We are sorry for incidences of a Google Robot bumping into you, stepping on your toe, speaking up without being asked, or similar mishaps. We are constantly working to improve the audio-visual and haptic input-output mechanisms of our robots' positronic digibrains. In other words, we're teaching 'em manners!

Is a Google Robot stronger than a human?

Technically, no. E.g., a Google Robot cannot lift very heavy objects at this time. However, if a Google Robot is ever forced to fight a human – which only happens when the Google Robot's self-defense program is activated by malicious use – the Google Robot would easily win by activating its self-defense devices. Please understand that for security reasons, we do not list these self-defense devices in detail here.

How do I auction my stuff to a Google Robot?

As part of our Google Auction program, you can give anything (your books, your electronic devices, your car) to a Google Robot you meet. Should the Google Robot be able to sell it, you will be billed a commission to your Google Wallet account. In the meantime, your items will be safely stored in a Google Warehouse.

How much does a Google Robot weigh?

Google Robots don't like to talk about their weight! But seriously, all of our Series 1 models weigh approximately 60 kg. Our series 2 models weigh approximately 50 kg, even though they are able to run faster, read books quicker, climb better, and jump higher.

I have a feeling of being watched by a Google Robot. What about my privacy?

Again, we take great measures to ensure no privacy is ever invaded. Even if there is a Google Robot next to you, it doesn't mean he records everything you say. You can think of him as a quiet neighbor doing gardening work. Do you suspect your neighbor to spy on your life... just because he's within a short distance of you?

Do Google Robots record everything?

Google Robots, at this time, record sound, imagery, and object shapes (touch), but do not yet record DNA, chemical substances, or fragrances. We are working on bringing a unified fragrance encoding standard to the web, and our prototype computer mouse already emits 2 million different fragrances including variations of honey, tobacco, and wood. We are also working on food testing robots. Please go to the Google Robots homepage at robots.google.com for the latest news and updates.

I still feel like a Google Robot invaded my privacy or breached a copyright. Where do I go to?

You can send privacy or copyright complaints to the following address:

Google, Inc.
Attn: Google Legal Support, DMCA Complaints
220 Far Earth District
Moonlake, Moon 105

Please include the Google Robot serial number (a Google Robot will always tell you his 16-digit serial number upon being asked), and if possible, the time when this happened. It is not necessary to give us further details about the location or setting, as naturally our Google Robot already recorded this information.

I have found a seemingly dead Google Robot. What should I do?

Please inform the Google authorities by sending an email to dead-robot@google.com. We try our best to remove the malfunctioning Google Robot as quick as possible. Normally, Google records malfunctioning Google Robot programs and automatically removes such machinery from the streets via the help of another Google Robot.

There's an urban legend of a Google Robot serial killer. What do you make of that?

We heard this story too, and as all other urban legends, there's not a bit of truth in it.

Why don't Google Robots look just like humans?

It was not a technical decision to make Google Robots look unlike humans, even though they are all to some extent human-like. We did this on purpose to easily allow you to separate a Google Robot from a human. We are running experimental programs in some cities in the US, as well as on Mars, with specialized Google Robot series which may not look like the robots you know.

I never saw a Google Robot with a digital camera. Why not?

A Google Robot's eyes are, in fact, digital cameras. We can record video as well as still imagery. Additionally, a Google Robot can record 3-dimensional imagery.

Under the Patriot Act IV, are you forced to share information crawled by Google Robots with agencies such as the CIA or NSA?

We are sorry, but at this moment we cannot comment on government relationships. We hope you understand. Note that as part of our company motto, "Don't be too evil," we take your privacy concerns very seriously.