"The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads"
That’s a quote by Jeff Hammerbacher, claiming that the current crop of high-tech companies are not tackling the really hard world-changing problems. It has since been siezed by a number of commentators, providing great fodder for their techno-dystopian views. (Of course, very few of them have a technical understanding of what it actually takes to make people click on ads.)
It’s high time somone called bullcrap on this meme.
That’s akin to saying that the purpose of an aircraft carrier is to keep afloat the flag at the top of the mast.
“Clicking on ads” happens to be one single application of a lego-like complex of massively complicated and cutting edge technologies that underlie a whole host of other applications. These underlying technologies span the gamut of creating and managing warehouse-scale computers, massively distributed storage systems, and manipulating large amounts of data for machine learning techniques. This involves solving deep and challenging problems both at the level of science, and at the level of engineering to make it real. It it used in multitudes of applications beyond ads.
So please, look deeper at the general problems being tackled, and their myriad applications.