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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Google Eats Your Brain

Some people would call me curmudgeonly, but the truth is that I have a deep resentment for arbitrary authority. I'm one of those old-fashioned guys who doesn't like anyone at any time telling me what I should or shouldn't do. After all, I went through school. I went to college. I've lived a little bit so I know what's going on.

I seriously believe that after several decades on the planet, I know what's good and what's not so good for me. I'm ready enough to take on almost any situation because I spent the better part of my youth being educated in all kinds of stuff. I can quote philosophers and physicists, or hold up my end of just about any political conversation. I know enough about art, religion and music to bluff my way past even the most pretentious snobs. I read. I watch. I observe. I remember.

I think. I know, that's something of a lost art, but I really happen to enjoy it. I ponder. I query and, not unlike John F. Kennedy, ask "why not?" I enjoy thrusting and parrying in conversations, most of the time not even caring about which side I argue. I just like the sport of it.

Of course, to be able to enjoy this kind of life requires possessing more than a fair amount of general knowledge. You not only have to know a lot of stuff, you have to enjoy knowing about a lot stuff. You have to look forward to each day for the amount of new things you're about to learn and be somewhat disappointed if you fall asleep having not learned anything worthwhile.

Too bad that this is probably the last generation who will ever know that pleasure. Because as we speak, Google is removing it from your brain.

This week, Google clumsily announced a new means of searching the internet called "Google Instant." Priding itself on its blindingly speedy technology, the mental fascists have created a technology that finds just about anything so that you don't have to know about it. Its "predictive technology" will begin searching for results as you type in a few keystrokes.

I found it somewhat depressing listening to Google's Chief of Human Destruction gleefully describe how fast and accurate her new product was. Pushing a button, it would seem, could supplant your own need for knowledge -- after all, why learn anything when you can just Google it?

I'll tell you why. And you'd better listen up:

What the public doesn't seem to understand -- because most of them came of age after the internet did -- is that Google is slowly eating their brains. As they give up their privacy for a few free products, the public doesn't seem to notice that Google knows everything about them. Google Street can show you a photograph of where they live; Google Search can tell you just about everything else if you know where to look. And now, Google Instant will tell you everything Google thinks you should know.

What's frightening is the big picture, in which Google, which claims to want to be the "sum of all knowledge" is creating a huge dependency for any human who knows how to point and click. But what happens the day the power goes out? What will humans do when there is no Google to query? Where's the human backup for knowledge no longer stored in human memories?

Even more frightening is the notion that Google may choose to store and serve only knowledge it deems appropriate. And what happens then? You don't have to be George Orwell to understand that he who controls knowledge controls the world. Sure, it may sound paranoid, but think it out for yourself: What if Google chose not to store any information about 9/11? Or the Holocaust? Or chose not to display any references to the bombing of Hiroshima?

Still not convinced? How about this: What would happen if Google decided to omit any references to you? I'll tell you what would happen. You'd cease to exist, because the standard by which your existence was measured -- presence on Google -- wouldn't show anything about you. And because human memory no longer held any currency, you'd be certifiably non-existent.

Think it can't happen? Ever experienced credit theft? That's just the tip of the iceberg.

There are those who would call me an alarmist. Fine. I've been called worse. But at least I know that when and if the plug ever gets kicked out of the wall, I'll be able to survive without pointing or clicking. Now take a look at the gamer moron sitting next to you, texting his girlfriend. What chance has he got?