The November issue of The Atlantic magazine celebrates its 160th anniversary with a cover story on a search for the Science of Creativity —  at search giant Google.

The Atlantic’s Senior Editor Derek Thompson, “was granted rare access to the secretive lab at X to see what it can teach us about breakthroughs and the lost art of invention.”

It’s a well written piece:

A snake-robot designer, a balloon scientist, a liquid-crystals technologist, an extra dimensional physicist, a psychology geek, an electronic-materials wrangler, and a journalist walk into a room…

The setting is X, the so-called moonshot factory at Alphabet, the parent company of Google… The people in this room have a particular talent: They dream up far-out answers to crucial problems.

Thompson’s conclusion after several days in the lab:

“Insisting on quick products and profits is the modern attitude of innovation that X continues to quietly resist. For better and worse, it is imbued with an appreciation for the long gestation period of new technology.”

Foremski’s Take: There’s little that’s “secretive” about Google’s X initiatives. The company gets enormous attention for its far out ideas such as mining asteroids and stem-cell burgers. Its most popular one is the self-driving car initiative which gets so many media stories you’d think Google was a car maker.

It has been so incredibly successful in publicizing its futuristic ideas that reporters rarely ever report on its actual business.

Google makes no money from any of its lab projects. They have absolutely no material impact on its business today and well into the future.  And as Thompson noted,  Google is in no hurry to make them into profitable businesses. So why do they exist?

There’s no need to develop them further because they already serve a valuable purpose — they are engineered to be a series of clickbait distractions for reporters to write stories about science and innovation. It’s easier than delving into  how Google made $90 billion last year.

If reporters looked closely at Google’s business they would find better and more important stories that impact our world and our communities today — not in a distant future.

However, few reporters understand how Google makes money — ask them something basic such as to name Google’s two largest business groups and they cannot. It means they cannot even start to understand the deeper complexities of how money is made on the Internet.

Google’s X is not about the science of creativity — it’s about the use of science as a distraction of public attention — from a secretive business organization that influences the economies of nations.   It’s a big, bigger story.

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