I don’t buy this “Google are creating a preconceived vision of the web” by training staff to conform to a set of rules for evaluating sites.
An athletics coach, music teacher or university lecturer teaches their students by taking the best of what they have learned and passing it on. They help students avoid bad habits and promote evidence based best practices. As a result, each generation of athletes, musicians and scientists are more capable than the one before – building on the knowledge and experience of previous generations.
So, of course there is some "decision engineering" going on, some gems will be missed and the spam team are bound to be involved somewhere.
However, given the significant developments in search engine technology over the past decade and Google’s continued dominance, I’d say that they are making a ... reasonable... job of it so far (at least as far as most users are concerned) and they CAN’T afford to screw up by becoming a repressive regime because the fickle user base will jump ship overnight (Altavista anyone?)
The inclusion of ranking factors such as social signals, freshness, the rate of growth of organic links, reduced advertising etc. gives me hope, as a user, that the web will continue to develop as a diverse, interesting and UN-censored source of information.
As a developer, however, who makes a comfortable income from the affiliate market space I’m not so happy. I think my days might be numbered. $#@&!