— There’s a lot to chew on in this Ryan Avent post at The Economist about the implications of Google shutting down its RSS tool, Google Reader. Avent notes how much we rely on a single for-profit company for critical infrastructure and services—and how Google can take away those services when they no longer fit their strategy:

As I said, Google has asked us to build our lives around it, and we have responded. This response entails a powerful self-reinforcement mechanism: both providers and users of information and other services change their behaviour as a result of the availability of a Google product…
Once we all become comfortable with that state of affairs we quickly begin optimising the physical and digital resources around us. Encyclopaedias? Antiques. Book shelves and file cabinets? Who needs them? And once we all become comfortable with that, we begin rearranging our mental architecture. We stop memorising key data points and start learning how to ask the right questions. We begin to think differently. About lots of things. We stop keeping a mental model of the physical geography of the world around us, because why bother? We can call up an incredibly detailed and accurate map of the world, complete with satellite and street-level images, whenever we want. We stop remembering who said what when about what engagement on such-and-such a date, because we have fully archived email and calendar services for all of that. And we instead devote more mental energy to figuring out how to combine the wealth of information now at our hands into interesting things. Those interesting things might be blog posts or cat GIFs or novels or theories of the universe or personal relationships. The bottom line is that the more we all participate in this world, the more we come to depend on it. The more it becomes the world…

That’s a lot of power to put in the hands of a company that now seems interested, mostly, in identifying core mass-market services it can use to maximise its return on investment.

Read the whole thing.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.