Let's face, there is only one person in the world with the "highest IQ". For the rest of us, we are not the smartest person around. For most of us, the average search engineer at Google IS smarter than we are. Fact - it's a job I can't do. I don't think I could even get through the first interview.
So we need to stay realistically humble when we analyze what Google is doing or even trying to do. Otherwise we're going to make TERRIBLE SEO DECISIONS, based on our own blind spots rather than the real situation. Or even worse, we'll spend all kinds of energy assuming we can't do anything about our situation. Then we just whine and wring our hands, but we don't start winning again.
The biggest error I've seen is assuming we can read the hidden intentions of any other individual, and especially those of a corporation. This is dangerous territory. It's where we have a strong tendency to project our own hidden character onto another, rather than seeing the situation clearly. And with so many people inside a corporation affecting the group's action, it gets even worse.
For me, doing good SEO work means accepting and knowing that these two shortfalls are mine: I'm not the smartest cookie in the jar, and I can make big mistakes trying to read the motives of others.
By admitting that others are smarter than I am, I am challenged to continue to learn new things. So I study patents from Google, Bing and other Information Retrieval scientists. They are doing the hard work that's on the edge of human cultural change - and I want to know at least something about it at that purist level.
Then the science work gets translated into a pubic search engine service through a large company - because that job TAKES big resources these days. Cuill learned that lesson!
So I do try not to project my own shortcomings onto that corporation. Corporations in any field are a human challenge whenever they hit a certain scale. New effects appear that can look like "evil". Google is doing better than most at keeping that cr@p under control, but still they do create some effects that can feel harsh on a personal level.
It's easy, in a frustrating situation, to lose track of the fact that Google doesn't focus on me - that they're focus is on THEIR user base, just as my focus should be on mine. Emotion will not resolve an SEO problem - that's a fact!
And for me, this approach has worked so far. I have a career that feels like a blessing most of the time. And I can stay relatively balanced at work and still "have a life", too.
We are all in a competitive-cooperative ecology with Google. It's not just a competitive or cooperative situation - it's both, all the time. That much understanding, just on its own, has enough to humble me and keep me from becoming either a fanboy or a whining critic. It keeps me in a place where I can be productive.
I hope that sharing my thoughts on these issues can also help you.
[edited by: tedster at 12:24 am (utc) on Sep 25, 2012]