Google Barges, or Mister America Float On By

Jon Stewart’s latest show covered a story about the Google barges popping up on either US coast. One’s moored in San Francisco Bay, the other sitting in Maine’s Portland Harbor. For want of a manifest, media offered asinine speculation as to the concealed cargo. Señor Stewart handles his bread and butter:

Source: The Daily Show

This got my wheels a-spinnin’. A search yielded a WaPo article: Google’s crazy barge scheme: your complete guide. Check out this bit:

A Bay Area TV station has said the barge will be a marketing center for Google Glass, the wearable computer that connects to eyeglasses. Business Insider has suggested the same thing. An anonymous source told CNET that the barges will be stores that float from city to city via river (emphasis mine)

Um, that tip was anonymous for a reason, guys. What is this, a tabloid? Can we go ahead and not write an obituary for journalism? Think twice about the idea that Google wants to send barges adrift down our waterways, slanging augmented reality headgear to America’s riverfront communities. This report demands suspension of disbelief that might be required to view movie sequels Robocop: Houseboat! or Minority Report on the Mississippi.

Headline pizzazz is not gotten by a ‘new Google data centers’ story, it’s true. But the whole piece is bunk when reporters have no insight into the question, Why floating? 

My guess: finance. Specifically, high frequency trading (HFT). The winning edge in HFT is so vanishingly small that, paradoxically, physical space comes back into play. If Google were to float these barges way out into the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, they’d succeed in putting relay centers smack dab in between the west coast and the Tokyo Stock Exchange, the east coast and the London Stock Exchange. The cash that mega-banks would put up for a Google server at sea is—oh my god wait for it—unfathomable.

In support of my speculation I offer this, a Reuters piece published in May of this year. The article talks HFT with Mike Persico, CEO of high-tech network infrastructure company Anova Technologies:

Asked what might come next, Persico mentioned the use of drones and barges to create a transatlantic wireless network (emphasis mine).  

*Gulp*. Welp, I sure didn’t wake up wishing for a haunting vision of space-age militarized finance this sunny morning, but, there it is.

Mr. America, try to hide the product of your savage pride. 



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