The NYT writes about Wal-Mart, among others, quaking in their boots at the specter of Google looming on the horizon. Annointed media priestess of the future Esther Dyson prophesies “a huge increase in efficiency” as a result of Google, and others’, far-reaching efforts to enable universal ease-of-access to arbitrary data. Efficiency! Ha!
The writer of the article either heard what they wanted to from Ms. Dyson or bought the nonsense whole, as a bit later on the article notes, breathlessly,
Among the many projects being developed and debated inside Google is a real estate service, according to a person who has attended meetings on the proposal. The concept, the person said, would be to improve the capabilities of its satellite imaging, maps and local search and combine them with property listings.
The service, this person said, could make house hunting far more efficient, requiring potential buyers to visit fewer real estate agents and houses. If successful, it would be another magnet for the text ads that appear next to search results, the source of most of Google’s revenue.
This service is already available independently, albeit imperfectly, and was widely celebrated as an early and impressive Google Maps hack. The site is housingmaps.com. In addition, non-Google players have been rolling a fully–fledged version of this service out for the past year, as evidenced by our largely Redfin-powered house hunt. Redfin is Seattle-based, and I understand that also-regional real-estate programmers HouseValues just unveiled a similar tool, homepages.com.
I did appreciate the tools. I was, indeed, able to consider a seriously larger number of houses than I would have otherwise. But in the end, we invested an estimated twenty hours a week for about six months into the search. Without Redfin, I would have invested a probable five hours a week into the search. How long it would have gone on is unknown, but given the ten-percent-plus monthly cost increases in the market, my estimation is that we would have been flat priced out by February.
My real beef is with the idea that information transparency will bring greater efficiency. We looked at an estimated 120 houses and bid on five. Requiring potential buyers to visit fewer real estate agents and houses my sweet-smelling, taut, and perfectly round ass!
As person who has worked in the graphic arts for some time, this incredible, unproductive ballooning of the work needed to produce a given product, be it brochure or mortgage, is quite familiar. When the new tools make it easy to provide the client with a range of options, options increase to fill – and overfill – the time available, to no actual benefit or economic advantage.
Infinite choice is the end result of perfect information transparency. Infinity is the horizon of inflationary event spirals, while the numeral one is the horizon of efficient decision making.