Saturday, May 5, 2007

The "Google Interview"

The "Google Interview" appears to be the name for a series of Q&A sessions that Google is organizing for the many contenders for the Oval Office in next year's election. Last February Hillary Clinton was the first to be "interviewed;" and yesterday was John McCain's turn. Scott Lindlaw covered the event for Associated Press; and, appropriately enough, the story was picked up by Yahoo! News. Eric Schmidt conducted the interview, setting the context as follows:

I like to think of (seeking) [the parenthesis was inserted by Lindlaw in his effort to be kind to Schmidt's way with words!] the presidency as a job interview with the American people. And you're also sort of interviewing with Google. It's hard to get a job at Google.

Setting up the context for a job interview with Google probably justified Schmidt's opening question:

How do you determine good ways of sorting 1 million 32-bit integers in two megabytes of RAM?

This got a roar of laughter from the audience, and McCain seemed to take the joke in good humor. He probably reasoned that the abilities to both take a joke and avoid bullshit would probably be his greatest assets with this particular audience. After all, one of his aides must have cued him about the Google attitude towards government that Schmidt expressed not too long ago:

The average person in government is not of the age of people who are using all this stuff.

Since I subscribe to the conviction that all of presidential politics is nothing more than a freak show (whose price of admission seem to go up every four years), it is hard for me to think of Google as anything other than another tent on the midway. Lindlaw made the following claim:

The Google Interview could become the 21st-century equivalent of the candidate's pilgrimage to the General Motors plant.

He is probably right to the extent that both are hollow occasions where nothing much of import happens. Nevertheless, the picture that Lindlaw painted from Mountain View seemed to dwell less on the candidate and more on the audience that was there for entertainment, making the whole affair a sort of brilliant-geek version of the Jerry Springer show, if not gladiator fighting.

McCain did not appear to be scarred by the occasion though. He may even have figured out how to play to his audience advantageously. After all, he called them "the future of this nation." We should think about that if their primary teacher in government is Eric Schmidt!

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