A friend of mine at Google passed along a copy of an internal email today. My friend asked me to keep it confidential, but the news is too unnerving — and huge — to keep quiet. Here’s the relevant text:
To: [names redacted]
From: [names redacted]
Re: Google Law Project
Date: April 1, 2009
I’d like the working group to think about the following proposal.
Should Google make a pitch to the U.S. Government to run the federal court system on a contract basis?
You’ll remember that at last week’s Google Blue Sky (BS) lunch, we finally put to rest any thought of Google taking over General Motors. We didn’t doubt that Google could run the company more efficiently and leverage a lot of its innovative technology, but we were concerned that too many people would expect us to actually manufacture cars and trucks.
The federal court system, on the other hand, is a completely virtual enterprise. It has complex, distributed information inputs and a highly inefficient algorithmic system — the common law, administered by judges and juries — for producing outputs.
We might think of the federal court system as a pilot project for a worldwide system of Google Law, which might or might not require government support. Every state in the country has a terribly inefficient court system. Most national court systems in other countries work poorly, too. (We would have to think about how to deal with differences between civil law systems and common law systems, but I’ve heard that a couple of Stanford doctoral students are working on that.) There are hundreds of administrative courts. Think about what it would take to bring all of these things under one Google umbrella.
As with all Google projects, the keys are (i) massive utility gains coupled with (ii) commercialization potential (such as AdWords) that more than repays the full costs of producing and operating the system. Could this be a big win for the taxpayer, for the administration of justice, and for the shareholders?
Please bring your best arguments pro and con to next week’s BS lunch.
My reaction is that someone had one too many late night Double-Doubles at the In ‘n’ Out across 101 from the Googleplex.