Google is the Multivac

→ by Sean Percival < @percival >
at 3:17pm Dec 29, 2009

The Multivac was a massive computer, both in size and power, dreamed up by science fiction author, Isaac Asimov. Initially, it was used to build spaceships and plot their trajectory; the Multivac then went on to answer mankind’s other questions. It answered so many of man’s questions it actually became depressed. At that point, the Multivac planned its own death with supercomputer precision, of course.

Now, when you look closer at the stories of the Multivac, you can see a few parallels with Google. That is, there are enough similarities that Google engineer Neil Fraser was able to put together this interesting pictorial essay, probably on his 20% percent time.

Some of the more poetic (and relevant) quotes include:

If you have a personal problem, you may come to Multivac with it and with its knowledge of all of you, Multivac will be able to help you.

Of course, there was always a certain percentage of trivia: people who asked personal questions about their neighbors or obscene questions about prominent personalities;

Although I can’t help but feel the last quote and photo is meant to keep us up at night:

Can you imagine what the destruction of Multivac for even a short time would mean. The government would have collapsed; the economy broken down.


One of the first photos Neil uses (also used at the top of this post) caught my eye. It turns out that it is a mural painted in one of the Google Data Centers and it represents the Googlebot. Until this day we never really knew what it looked like, one had to assume the Googlebot resembled something like the Eye of Sauron from Lord of the Rings. Jeez, even this guy looks Asimov-inspired!

Learn more about the Google bot mural on Ben Rathbone’s website.

About the Author: Sean Percival

"Did you know HTML stands for How To Make Love?"