Is Google Starting Its Own Country?

Life beyond the Googleplex: don’t be evil, but do absolutely everything else, including creating offshore, oceanic supercomputer data centres that could set the stage for the creation of Google’s very own micronation?

That’s a whole new sphere of influence for an ‘internet’ company.

Google filed its most interesting patent application to date, notes the Independent: “The company is considering deploying the supercomputers necessary to operate its Internet search engines on barges anchored up to seven miles offshore.” It’s true! This is smart, using the ocean to cool their “supercomputers” and stuff. But! Hmm! Just seven miles offshore, you say? Now, most nations’ territorial waters end at 12 nautical miles from shore. Their “exclusive economic zone” extends much further—but does not forbid “loitering,” even “belligerent” loitering, in that zone. IS GOOGLE STARTING A MICRONATION????

So what exactly would this look like? The Times Online calls it a would-be “computer navy”:

Google may take its battle for global domination to the high seas with the launch of its own “computer navy”.

The company is considering deploying the supercomputers necessary to operate its internet search engines on barges anchored up to seven miles (11km) offshore.

The “water-based data centres” would use wave energy to power and cool their computers, reducing Google’s costs. Their offshore status would also mean the company would no longer have to pay property taxes on its data centres, which are sited across the world, including in Britain.

In the patent application seen by The Times, Google writes: “Computing centres are located on a ship or ships, anchored in a water body from which energy from natural motion of the water may be captured, and turned into electricity and/or pumping power for cooling pumps to carry heat away.”

But this might not be about internet-international micronations at all, it sounds like it has much more to do with the relationship between climate change and the information superhighway going supernova.

There’s even an assertion that all of our Gmail messages and YouTube viewing time could soon contribute even more to global warming than air travel: 

Data centres consumed 1 per cent of the world’s electricity in 2005. By 2020 the carbon footprint of the computers that run the internet will be larger than that of air travel, a recent study by McKinsey, a consultancy firm, and the Uptime Institute, a think tank, predicted.

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