Google and Palantir both want the same thing: They are two sides of the same coin
Google and Palantir both want the same thing:
They are two sides of the same coin
It is unclear to the general public what exactly a company like Palantir does. It has worked with the American Defense, but also with police forces, for example. It does something with data, such as data from surveillance systems. However, it all remains unclear and that is exactly what the company likes to see.
In any case, manufacturers of business software are not very well known to citizens, unlike a company like Google. However, this relative indifference is unjustified in Palantir's case. In fact, Palantir represents a vision of the role of technology in society that can have far-reaching consequences.
It remains critical whether society can appreciate a vision of Palantir. This company claims that it can collect and analyze large amounts of various data. It concerns data that comes from soldiers, police and informants. These are, for example, fingerprints, bank statements, tips from informants and you name it. By applying a correct analysis, Palantir claims to be able to uncover unsuspected relationships, map out criminals and terrorists and even predict possible attacks. Palantir is the Google for intelligence and related organizations.
It has now become clear that there is a considerable difference between the claims and the reality. Palantir says it will use artificial intelligence to analyze a large amount of data and then convert it into actionable insights. In practice, the company still relies very much on the efforts of many people. It is therefore constantly seconding its own people to its customers to help them build a platform that meets their needs.
The fact that Palantir has nevertheless built up a strong position with government institutions is mainly due to their good marketing and customer focus. However, it also has to do with very weak competition. The fact that co-founder Peter Thiele had built a strong relationship with President Trump has not hurt the company either.
Google vs Palantir
At first glance, Palantir is a very different company from Google. The latter provides free services to users in exchange for data used for targeted advertising. The former provides labor-intensive tools to manipulate data for a limited number (125) of clients. The data will be anything but public. That makes it an outsider in Silicon Valley. The desire for transparency certainly predominates there in theory.
Palantir absolutely does not want that. It wants to choose sides. In its own words, it wants to serve the interests of the US. A strong America is a blessing to the world, says CEO Alex Karp. According to critics, the tendency to choose sides can be traced back to the very pessimistic worldview of Thiele and Karp. For them, violence is a constant in the world. It is, therefore, necessary to choose sides and keep an eye on the other side.
Palantir's vision of the world is therefore very different from that of Google. That of the former is built on mistrust. The world is a zero-sum game, an all or nothing affair. Contrast that with Google's vision. It looks playful and colorful and is filled with optimism. Google promises tools that allow anyone to track down any information they want. That information can strengthen the user, so as democracy. For the sake of convenience, Google assumes that the world will use all that information for good. This positive approach is not entirely altruistic. If information is used for the better and not misused, most people will be happy to share their private data. Google can then use it for its own benefit.
But Google is fundamentally different from Palantir. That is not so bad if the viewer takes a few steps back and looks on from a distance. Both companies promise to use artificial intelligence, machine learning and computing power to bring together and organize very different sources of information so that they can be analyzed and the results can be made available. Both companies offer their customers to be able to quickly retrieve information and combine it in such a way that previous obscure connections emerge. The concept of supervision is central in both business models, on the understanding that in one business model the customer carries out supervision and in the other, the customer is under supervision.
The similarity between the two business models is that they both have little appreciation for privacy, for example. That's why a company like Google constantly talks about transparency. It just gives it a different interpretation. The user must be transparent. The tech industry in 2020 claims that this approach is the remedy frictions within society. These are obstacles that make interactions between people and institutions more difficult. These are obstacles to providing the correct information in order to be able to fulfill everyone's wishes. That sounds nice, but we must therefore allow anyone who behaves peculiarly to be placed under supervision. A surveillance society seems not too far in this sense.