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?


Blogger Bob said...

Nice writing style, and I have to agree... Google has changed the world our kids are growing up in, and not always for the better.

However, I would argue, there is hope. Our children are growing up with access to more information then we've ever had, and are growing into this world without our old bias. The ability to link ideas and build on what they discover will be ... interesting. Scary, new, different, and perhaps lead us to some new and very good places.

And perhaps open us up to a new age, much like the industrial revolution, only something I call the creative age.

Once that genie is out of the bottle any attempt to censor or block access will be met with a strong, perhaps hostile push back.

Thank you for the fun ideas and great POV.


Sanders Consulting Group

10:21 AM  
Blogger Dr. Shannon Reece said...

Wow! Great information on the new Google feature. Thanks for the wake up call.

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Very rant-y entry, but you got a point. I remember when people were not too dependent on Google and people relied on brains and experience to excel. If you want to succeed, you learn things, which is a pretty long process. When you want to read up on something, you go to the library and look for the information you need, which may not always take only a few minutes. Everything pre-Google teaches perseverance and patience. I guess Google in a way is taking away some really important human values.
menu printing"

10:39 AM  
Blogger eydryan said...

Rob I think you should take a visit to the Ministry of Love. You need a refill on your Google Love.

2:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, I DON'T think you are overreacting. This is and will be a big problem. That is why I think the development of Apple's Siri is so important. Sure its main objective is search just like Google and sure they too will have the option of choosing what they want for people to know or not know but I just don't see Apple doing that because their culture and philosophy has always been different from Google's. Apple is still about the user and his or her experience while Google is still about maximizing profits.

I agree that its not good for any company to have this control of information. I do however think that if enough people choose the right company(s) to do this, companies that care more about making the world better rather than stuffing as much cash as possible into their pockets, we may avoid apocalypse.

My point is that you have to accept that this technology drive towards more automation is inevitable so the only thing we can do as humans and as consumers is to make sure this power is in the best hands possible.

11:09 AM  

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