"After the closing of Youtube, we had a bunch of engineers we could not relocate into the different projects we have opened", Page says. "In a brainstorming session, an engineer came with the idea of tackling a problem that was affecting many people: the actual socioeconomic and ecofin world systems. Here at Google, we think the world has a somewhat obsolete system that doesn't seem to serve its purpose in its full efficiency".
By 2020, a Beta release of Google World was released.
"One of the main problems was to provide with the hardware to back the system itself, given that it doesn't depend on software alone. We had assessed that getting users to test our system would be much easier than it was with that advanced product we launched around years ago, Google Wave, because users are already using a system to deliver world organization - so they are used to the product - and many people are demanding another systems. They are fed up with the actual product and eager to test new ones - only they didn't know any alternative. If we come up with a new, better product, it will be like a 'Facebook against MySpace' sort of thing".
There were some legal issues too, some of which Google had never faced before. "Here the problem is that, in order to function on Earth, we had to comply with the laws the system that we are competing against had already set up. It's like running Google+ as a Facebook Plugin and still want to take over Facebook."
A new country
The Google engineers took little to realize that they needed a place where they could be the base platform, and that interferences with the actual world could be minimized.
"Going to another planet is still unachievable by now, especially in terms of costs. As well, we wanted to test Google World in a small, controlled environment first, where most bugs could be corrected without a major impact in the actual world." After some rounds of contacts with many small countries, there were a few contestants that made it to the final. Haiti, Cambodia and Spain were the candidates. "Although the project was envisioned to make a real difference in the world, we went for stability to test our system and eagerness of the people to use it. By these terms, we chose Spain."
Spain is a country that has been in recession for longer than a decade. This "crisis" has been considered endemic by the FMI and, after Spain was expelled from the European Union and the Euro, its currency (the Peseta, which was given the popular name of "rajoys" - pronounced rah-ho-ees" - after a former PM) dropped by 60%. The unemployment rate reached 31%, which started an emigration process that made the population decline at 35 million by 2019 - when it was around 50 million ten years after. The recently chosen new government, led by left-wing party Izquierda Unida, showed interest on trying Google's system on the campaign - which is considered to have had a tremendous effect on the voter. IU has tripled its votes, but more importantly it is considered to be the reason after the raise in participation from the 37% in last general elections, to the actual 64%.
"It was good to team up with a political party that had no experience in power. This made it less difficult to remove the usual reticence and interests that happen under the hood", an engineer said. "We also noticed they lacked of a clear plan. The party is quite divided in factions which makes it hard to take an actual masterplan. In a way, I think we also were welcomed because of this. If this was the case, we are happy to be an excuse to make them keeping their confrontations aside without having to actually get the responsibility to test their ideas in a real environment - because that is what we actually want", says, smiling.
The full process of establishing the system has been two years long. "This is amazing" - a well-known MP from former on-office party PSOE said - "a small team of engineers and computers runs the country way better that we did", while a colleague from the former opposition party, Partido Popular, nods showing agreement, while they asks us to remain anonymous.
There has been a revolution on the way the country works. "In a way, it can be considered revolutionary. We try to enhance the persons first, so they are happier and more productive. We identify areas of potential growth and needs, we create production processes and thus make the work more productive. In classic economic terms, there has been some kind of nationalization of some areas, but we also try to make competition flourish especially in technological ones."
The unemployment rates are showing a decline, although engineers point out that this is now one of the parameters they try to control. "Obviously we measure it, but it is not a parameter that we seek to directly act on. We see it as a consequence of productivity", an engineer stated. "The system will therefore show positive global measurements if the controlled parameters, such as economic growth and wealth, education, health, etc. are up. We don't care if unemployment is above 40% if people are better off this way, and the country can pay for it. We are aware this is a tough one to take for the usual political and economic thinking" - he continues, while laughing, intertwining nerdy snorts.
"We were at first reluctant to get this system working in our own country. We always have feared that automated, or semi-automated systems like this, would just care about economic parameters in a neo-liberal fashion and leave the people the role of mere drones. A 1984 sort of thing" - an IU MP said. "We made our terms clear: education, culture, freedom of speech, public health and other capital values will be just as important." Google's response shocked IU. "They came up with reports and economic theories which were more than satisfying for us. They were trying to demonstrate scientifically how, in the long run, the country would be better off if its inhabitants were in a better shape, in every sense. They even measured the level of attraction of such a country in the world today in terms of highly skilled immigration".
The international markets showed great interest on seeing how a country with a C level of debt could be run by a semi-automated system. "They have nothing to lose" - a voice from Moody's stated in 2018 - "This is a bold move from Google though. I can do nothing but recommend buying Google shares. Even if the project goes wrong, which I think it will, it will give them knowledge worth every dime spent on it".
After watching Google World come into effect, rating agencies are suggesting that Spain may no longer be a target for speculation purposes only.
"A very few people have the information that leads to real power. We suggest this information should be on the public domain, and be put to work on the public good". A scary message for most, that IU president sent a month ago in the yearly National Debate.
United States and some major economies have raised their eyebrows regarding what they call "an experiment". There has not been an official statement about it yet, but most media nicknamed it "Computer Communism".
After two years of adoption of the system, around two million people have returned from abroad to Spain, especially highly qualified people that left the country because there was no chance they could put their skills to work.
"We plan to make technology the major part of the economic cake. And technology applied to every other sector to get the most out of it" - Google World director said. "We hope we will have support for the people of Spain during the next four years", he continued. "We see this system as the logical way of running a country. The system is complex and still has its problems. We went a long way, but there is still very much to do. Areas where there is room for improvement includes psychological support and development, general prejudices, national diversity, etc. Most of what we've done for now, has been applying what it was already known - but nobody wanted to do".