Google’s Larry Page is the invisible man

“While Alphabet faces existential challenges, its co-founder is exercising his right to be forgotten.” Mark Bergen and Austin Carr report at Bloomberg Businessweek:

Larry Page was a no-show. The co-founder and de facto leader of Google is famous for his wild bets on airborne taxis and space elevators, but he apparently couldn’t make the flight to Washington, D.C. Page had been called to testify on Capitol Hill, alongside Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, about the ways state-sponsored actors have exploited their platforms. Page spurned the request. When the hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee began on Sept. 5, a black leather chair reserved for him sat empty next to Dorsey and Sandberg. A place card marked “Google,” in front of a blank notepad and muted microphone, served as a blunt reminder of his absence. As senator after senator tore into the company for skipping the hearing, they often directed their ire to the void where Page would have sat, with Florida’s Marco Rubio labeling the snub “arrogant” and fellow Republican Susan Collins of Maine calling it an “outrage.” News cameras panned to the unoccupied seat.

Google faces a crisis of criticism from the public and governments, including a $5.1 billion fine from Europe. It needs leadership from its co-founder, who’s nowhere to be found.

In 2015 at least Page was focused on big bets, like robotics, Google Fiber and autonomous flying vehicles

Another skunkworks project that consumed Page, started in 2015 and previously unreported, was a Disney-esque idea to reimagine transportation, code-named Heliox. According to three people familiar with the effort, a team operating out of a former NASA hangar in the Bay Area built a tube of plastic the width of a subway car, snaked around a circular track, designed to propel bicyclists at rapid speeds through a swirl of oxygen and helium pumped into the tunnel at their backs. Heliox was pure Page, a space-age concept both preposterously imaginative and mechanically marvelous: The vision was to stretch this tube system, arced hundreds of feet in the air, from a ground-level entry point on Google’s Mountain View campus to an exit 35 miles north, in San Francisco, so Google’s rainbow-colored beach cruisers might one day be seen flying over U.S. Highway 101. Yes, it sounds like a Hyperloop for bikes.

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