Is Google Dumbing You Down?

Coming in toward the end of the bubble that rang in a new millenium, their “Do no evil” mantra seemed to suggest that Sergey Brin and Larry Page had our best interests at heart when they launched Google. Not doing evil is, probably, a key part of any sustainable business plan. However, some fifteen years and trillions of search enquiries later, the question is: Is Google truly doing us good?

The stated aim of the Google founders is to create a search engine “as smart as people—or smarter,” according to Page, and to move inexorably toward artificial intelligence. Google is a mine of information; or rather your own, personal miner, looking for the very nugget that you as his master have directed him to search for. The enormous vista of informational nuggets it provides, however, leave us greedy for more, eager to dig and quickly discard, but to stand and stare, to savour less. Google’s number 1 result is rarely the definitive answer, but a passing convenience.

Is Google Dumbing you down?

Is Google Dumbing you down?

Academics such as University professors have bemoaned today’s students in their apparent inability to think deeply (if at all) on the topic they are writing on, as the stream of our consciousness broadens and flattens, cutting less deeply than before. Aren’t we becoming shallow too? Have we lost the ability to distinguish between information and knowledge, or confused the two? And are we outsourcing our ability to research something, and to search for information on it, to a machine?

We can see how online newspapers are catering for ever-shorter attention spans, seeking to titillate rather than to inform, seemingly assured that their visitor will be leaving anyway—and very soon.

Can you live without Google? Much as the way in which reading a map becomes passé once you have a satnav system in your car, Google encourages you to rely on it to the point where you can’t imagine being without it. If you need to find out how to get indelible ink off your new dining room table, Google is just the thing (it’s toothpaste, by the way). But let’s not rely on it too much.

Perhaps the most affirming thing about our attachment to Googling is that it cannot help us with the most essential things in life. Ask Google how to play Beethoven’s Symphony 9 in D minor, or to describe what it feels like to hold your new-born baby for the first time.
Try it. Ask Google about the most important things in life. About love. The answers suddenly seem less satisfying.

Some things we’ll just have to keep on researching ourselves…

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