One of the many reasons I love Google

Here's a picture.  It's a picture of a woman named Karin Tuxen-Bettman walking around in a frozen tundra with a giant camera on her back.


She works for Google Street View, and she's part of a team that's mapping chunks of the Canadian arctic.  Allan Woods at the Guardian writes:

Helped by an Inuit mapping expert, and stalked by curious locals, the team spent four days trudging through the terrain and collecting the images and information that will give the isolated community on the tundra of Baffin Island what urbanites across the globe now take for granted.

It's generally understood that the best technologies don't make it out to the far reaches of the globe for a very, very long time, because there's no real profit in bringing them there.  The private sector will bring high-speed internet to the city as much as possible, but there are places in the world where you can't buy a good connection even if you want to.  Not wildernesses, either -- people who make their living putting stuff online have this problem.[One of the YouTube channels I follow, Etho's Lab, doesn't upload high-definition video, because it takes up his whole internet connection for about 24 hours.  I don't know where Etho lives, but I know it's somewhere in Canada.]

Whatever their motives are, and I've heard some sinister theories, Google cares about something other than quarterly profits, and whatever it is, it pushes them to spend money and effort making the world better for as many people as possible.  Maybe they've got an incredibly long view of maximum profitability.  Maybe it's just that they think the Inuits will be worth the advertising views.  Maybe (and this is my pet theory) they actually aren't evil.

Yes, it's true that Google is definitely a for-profit company that does a lot of for-profit things.  But they clearly, obviously weigh all their decisions against measures other than profitability.  And sometimes, profitability is so far down on the list that we get things like street-view maps of the Canadian arctic.