How Google Dominates Us by James Gleick
Posted in: Miscellaneous at 22/04/2012 14:45
Tweets Alain de Botton, philosopher, author, and now online aphorist:
The logical conclusion of our relationship to computers: expectantly to type "what is the meaning of my life" into Google.
You can do this, of course. Type "what is th" and faster than you can find the e Google is sending choices back at you: what is the cloud? what is the mean? what is the american dream? what is the illuminati? Google is trying to read your mind. Only it's not your mind. It's the World Brain. And whatever that is, we know that a twelve-year-old company based in Mountain View, California, is wired into it like no one else.
Google is where we go for answers. People used to go elsewhere or, more likely, stagger along not knowing. Nowadays you can't have a long dinner-table argument about who won the Oscar for that Neil Simon movie where she plays an actress who doesn't win an Oscar; at any moment someone will pull out a pocket device and Google it. If you need the art-history meaning of "picturesque," you could find it in The Book of Answers, compiled two decades ago by the New York Public Library's reference desk, but you won't. Part of Google's mission is to make the books of answers redundant (and the reference librarians, too). "A hamadryad is a wood-nymph, also a poisonous snake in India, and an Abyssinian baboon," says the narrator of John Banville's 2009 novel, The Infinities. "It takes a god to know a thing like that." Not anymore.
The business of finding facts has been an important gear in the workings of human knowledge, and the technology has just been upgraded from rubber band to nuclear reactor. No wonder there's some confusion about Google's exact role in that -- along with increasing fear about its power and its intentions.