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Alphabet Is A Scary Company
To be clear, we’re not against change, especially if it’s progress. However, change for the sake of change isn’t progress. It’s just change.
For example, The Juice has been all over actively-managed ETFs lately. It almost feels like they’ve come out of nowhere as they emerge – suddenly – as a big dog in the ETF playing field.
However, this change isn’t scary. Clearly, it’s progress.
Maybe it’s because the utility is clear (as a replacement for or complement to existing investment vehicles and strategies). Plus, active ETFs look a lot like something we’re all familiar with – actively-managed mutual funds or your very own DIY portfolio of individual stocks.
Another case in point – when Apple released the iPhone, it wasn’t scary. It was a logical and (now) obvious answer to what was an already popular handheld device called the BlackBerry. (By the way, do yourself a favor and see the BlackBerry movie that’s out. It’s excellent).
Looking back, we needed the iPhone. As investors, we think we’ll look back and say, we needed active ETFs. Welcome change. Progress.
Then there’s what Alphabet (though we prefer to call them Google) and a handful of others are up to.
Driverless Cars And Artificial Intelligence
Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
But it all feels just a bit weird. If not outright scary. Plus it gives Google increasing control over critical aspects of our lives – transportation, how we access information and what we find when we tap that access.
If you don’t live in Phoenix, San Francisco or Los Angeles, you might not even know what Waymo is. It’s an Alphabet subsidiary, formerly known as the Google Self-Driving Car Project, that currently offers driverless ride sharing in Phoenix and soon, in San Francisco and LA. Here in LA, Waymo vehicles are driving all over town, presumably collecting data so the service can get approved for launch. Waymo is much closer to a full launch in San Francisco, as it’s currently only available to a small group of consumers.
But do we really need driverless rideshare? We’re not going to answer that question, because, frankly, we’re not sure. You can make solid arguments in either direction.
Maybe the bigger question is are we, as a general public, ready for it? We were ready for the BlackBerry-to-iPhone transition and most of us will likely embrace active ETFs. But a rideshare without somebody in the driver seat. This might be a tough sell, not to mention tech getting a bit too far ahead of itself.
That last point is key: It might be a tough sell. Ultimately, the public decides based on what we choose to and choose not to adopt. But sometimes we feel like we don’t have a choice with long in the works innovation foisted on us seemingly out of nowhere.
Then there’s this:
As we typed the original draft of this Juice in Google Docs, we have the Google Labs AI assistant enabled. If we click that little pen, we could ask Google’s AI to literally write this entire installment for us. Don’t worry, we didn’t. Surely, Google would have said nicer things about itself. But the point is we could have. And that’s scary.
Sure, it can, for example, make you a more productive responder to emails. But do you really want friends, colleagues or even strangers sending you what amounts to – let’s face it – an automated email? Progress or change for the sake of change?
Then there’s this:
We gave Google’s Generative AI a spin in Google Search, using a Google-provided example. Here’s how it looked with the AI result at the top and the old school search results starting on the bottom.
Looks innocent. Google’s AI scanned the universe of content on making the perfect cup of coffee and curated a nice little package for us with step-by-step directions alongside a few specific sources for more information. More information that, today, you’d probably require. However, as Google’s AI gets better, it might be all you need.
Setting aside the jobs driverless tech and AI is taking and will continue to take away, the scariest part is that the evolution of AI in something like Search gives Google even more control over information. Sure, Google already has lots of control, but AI takes this a scary step further. And Congress is busy worrying about TikTok.
All of this said, the jury is still out on what to ultimately make of all this. Which is why we’re questioning it.
Scary stuff, especially if it’s not in the name of true progress, but only change for the sake of change. Because we – or a relative handful of tech nerds – can.
The Bottom Line: Thankfully, Google’s AI hasn’t come for us yet!
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