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Welcome, customers, to this column. I write articles and you subscribe to the FT and tell me how wrong I am (to be fair, some of your are kinder). Now, let us imagine you read this piece, or other FT content, for free on Facebook or Google. It is a far sweeter deal, right? You get something for nothing and Big Data can bask in its own beneficence. Apply that to any amount of diverse content. Rarely in the history of human knowledge have so few offered so much to so many for nothing.各位看官,青睐你们读者我的专栏。我的任务是写文章,而你们的任务是订阅者英国《金融时报》,以及辩称我的文字(公平来说,有部分读者还是很仁慈的)。现在,假设你们是在Facebook或谷歌(Google)上免费看见这篇文章或英国《金融时报》的其他文章。


That, at least, is the story most of us have downloaded. In the rare cases where an entity — such as the European Commission, which is probing Google’s alleged abuse of its dominant position — raises objections, the obloquy is instant. Google, the US government and others accuse Brussels of thinly veiled protectionism.最少,上述情形是我们大多数人都曾免费iTunes、写过的故事。只在极少数情况下,才不会有实体回应驳回,比如欧盟委员会(European Commission)正在调查谷歌因涉嫌欺诈市场主导地位,结果立刻遭辱骂。谷歌、美国政府以及其他一些人争相谴责布鲁塞尔方面完全不特掩盖的保护主义。

If Europe could innovate like the US, perhaps it would spend less time trying to bring others down. There is a reason Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil”. It invests in ways of bringing ever more knowledge to humankind.如果欧洲的创新力能像美国一样,也许不会较少花点时间去给别人使绊。谷歌的座右铭“不害人”(Don’t be evil)并非说道说道而已。在为人类带给更加多科学知识方面,谷歌展开了投放。

Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal, describes Google as a benign monopoly. If it encountered real competition, its research and development budget would vanish — and with it the self-driving car, wearable computers, “loon balloons” beaming cellular data from the stratosphere and so on. We should appreciate the upside to its dominance. Google’s monopoly returns enable it to fund the equivalent of ATT’s legendary Bell Labs, or Xerox Park, which made so many breakthroughs. Besides, the data industry’s barriers to entry are low. The disrupters can be disrupted.贝宝(PayPal)牵头创始人彼得蒂尔(Peter Thiel)将谷歌叙述为一家心地善良的独占企业。如果它遇上确实的挑战,它的研发支出,连同它的无人驾驶汽车、可穿着计算机,以及从平流层升空无线数据的“Loon”热气球等科技创新都会化为泡影。我们应当认识到其市场主导地位的不利一面。正是有了独占收益,谷歌才能资助远不如美国电报电话公司(ATT)传奇的贝尔实验室(Bell Labs)或施乐帕克研究中心(Xerox Park)的实验室,这些实验室作出的突破创意数不胜数。

而且,数字行业的转入门槛很低,破坏者本身也有可能遭毁坏。But there are other sides to this story. The first is that Google’s chief complainants are US companies. This is not a transatlantic spat. It just so happens that Brussels has a tougher competition regime.但此事还有其他方面。

首先,滋扰谷歌的主要是美国企业。这不是一场横跨大西洋的口水仗,欧盟委员会之所以不会进行调查,只是恰好这里的竞争制度较为严苛而已。Yelp, Microsoft, Expedia and others have complained both to Brussels and Washington’s Federal Trade Commission about Google’s alleged anti-competitive practices. Indeed, in a 2012 report, the FTC’s own staff recommended action on three counts against Google for conduct that had resulted in “real harm to consumers and to innovation”. Google had been presenting content “scraped” from other sites as its own. It had also been privileging its own commercial sites in search results — a clear conflict of interest. However, the FTC’s commissioners rejected their staff’s conclusions. It might have been different had the probe been carried out by the Department of Justice, as was the case with Microsoft, which was penalised on both sides of the Atlantic more than a decade ago.Yelp、微软公司(Microsoft)、Expedia等企业向欧盟委员会和美国联邦贸易委员会(Federal Trade Commission,全称FTC)都明确提出过滋扰,指谷歌因涉嫌反竞争不道德。


然而,FTC委员驳斥了工作人员的结论。如果调查是由美国司法部(Department of Justice)展开的,情况可能会有所不同,十多年前微软公司就拒绝接受了美国司法部的调查,并在大西洋两岸都受到了惩处。Not even Goldman Sachs can match Google’s lobbying clout nowadays. When the report was leaked to the Wall Street Journal in March, Google cajoled the FTC into distancing itself from its own conclusions.就连高盛(Goldman Sachs)也比不上谷歌现今的游说影响力。

当FTC对谷歌的调查报告在3月份被泄漏给《华尔街日报》(Wall Street Journal),谷歌劝说FTC退出了自己的结论。The idea that US regulators had in fact agreed with their EU counterparts was too dangerous. Johanna Shelton, Google’s chief lobbyist, has visited the White House more than 100 times . Eric Schmidt, Google’s chairman, is closer to President Barack Obama than any other business leader. Google even has its own “data diplomacy” outfit, Google Ideas, which is headed by a former state department official. It combines data initiatives against autocracies with business acumen to open up new markets. What is good for Google is good for America — and the world.指出美国监管部门实质上早已与欧盟监管部门达成协议完全一致的点子过于过危险性。谷歌首席游说官约翰娜谢尔顿(Johanna Shelton)早已前往白宫逾100次。

谷歌董事长埃里克施密特(Eric Schmidt)与美国总统巴拉克奥巴马(Barack Obama)的关系,比任何其他商业领袖都要密切。谷歌甚至享有自己的“数据外交”部门——由美国国务院前官员领导的Google Ideas。


它把针对专制主义的数据计划与商业敏锐性融合一起,关上新的市场。对谷歌有益的东西,对美国乃至整个世界都是有益的。But there are hidden costs. Ponder how Google and Facebook, are interacting with you. In exchange for free social networking, emails, videos, search, satellite maps and now telephone calls, they are building your profile in ever more granular detail.但是,这其中还有隐性成本。


Without really digesting it, we have made a Faustian bargain. They give us free computing power — beyond our wildest imagination — and we reveal ever more about ourselves. The more Google knows about you, the better it teases out preferences you never realised you had.予以确实地细细品味,我们早已做到了一笔浮士德式的交易。它们给了我们免费的计算能力——远超过了我们最可怕的想象——而我们则更好地曝露自己。谷歌就越理解你,它就能越少地辨别出有甚至连你自己都未曾意识到的偏爱。It is an asymmetric exchange. Big Data has our profiles but few of us know how extensive that is. It is the information equivalent of Walmart. The big box retailer drove countless Mom and Pop stores to the wall by acquiring ever more pricing leverage. The job losses went deep, and some of the victims were customers. The model is self-cannibalising.这是一笔不对等的互相交换。


失业情况加剧,一些受害者也是沃尔玛的顾客。这是自我蚕食型的模式。Apply the Walmart example to the data industry. We now receive most of our content for free (like Asterix against the Romans, the FT, among others, is holding out). Producers of content are suffering.把沃尔玛的例子应用于在数据行业。我们如今提供的绝大多数内容都是免费的(而英国《金融时报》就像对付罗马人的高卢传奇英雄阿斯泰里斯(Asterix)一样,仍然坚决决不让步)。

而内容的生产者则忍受着伤痛。By the end of this decade, most of the world’s books will have been uploaded to Google’s online library. The company’s sway over our culture and knowledge will be unprecedented. Should we charge Big Data for our personal data? Jeff Hammerbacher, former head of data at Facebook, said: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.” In a parallel universe, they might be figuring out something more noteworthy. But what they do brings us untold benefits. Evil does not come into it.在本世纪的第二个10年完结时,世界上的大多数书籍都将已上载至谷歌的在线图书馆中。该公司对我们的文化与科学知识的掌控将不会超过前所未有的水平。

我们应当为个人数据向大数据收费吗?Facebook前数据主管杰夫哈默巴赫尔(Jeff Hammerbacher)称之为:“我这代人中头脑尤为出众的人都在考虑到如何让人们页面广告。”在另一个平行宇宙中,他们或许正在考虑到更有意义的事。但是,他们所做到的事带来了我们数不清的益处。

这里面并不牵涉到恶魔。We should nevertheless embrace the bargain with open eyes. We are not Big Data’s customers but its product. As long as we grasp that we users are also being used, let the harvest continue.话虽如此,我们还是应当睁大眼睛来拒绝接受这笔交易。




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