Google Reassures

A quick Google search just reassured me about something. Google can be a storehouse of information you might not really want to know or that might not be good for you. Perhaps this is unfair, substituting Google for internet, as Google and other search engines* only show us results for a search of the web. Blaming Google is a bit like blaming the telephone for heavy breathing callers, or books because you read something that made you angry or scared in a book once. Wikipedia and many other big searching sites also play their part.

Now I’ve seen some very bad things online. I’ve seen terrorists behead captives and various videos and still images of what unusual ladies and gentlemen do when they love each other very much … or perhaps when they don’t love each other at all, have just met, and the director shows them where the ‘toys’ are and calls “Action!” Or perhaps there isn’t a director – you can film yourself, doing anything, and put it on the net. Scripts are not necessary. No running order is required, and nobody needs to be paid.

I’ve read about a lot of very strange and wrong behaviour as well. If you want to find out grisly details of a serial killer’s MO, you can find it. You can find crime scene photos and mugshots taken when celebrities have been arrested. I’ve also read disturbing excerpts from ancient texts, digitised in the name of democratising information for the masses who have an internet connection, some of which has been alarming and yet satisfying to read.

Yes, my tastes are unconventional. I’m interested in witchcraft and violent crime and banned literature, and I’m also interested in politics, history, and sport. All these areas can be pursued on the net. It’s as eclectic as we are – but our more hidden side at least competes with our open public side as a society, or indeed a species, online. It’s not hidden any more. David Letterman once said that the internet was good for two things, email and porn, and I think this illustrates my point.

For those worried about their health, the information available online will convince a suggestible individual that they have several forms of cancer.

But there are many wonderful resources available online, opportunities for education and broadening one’s experience, and access to this material is cheap and often free, from publicly funded public libraries. Like I said, I’ve just been reassured by a Google search. I was looking at the bunch of sunflowers in a big vase in this room and wondered why some of them are droopy, despite the fact that they are opening and showing their golden leaves, so I put a few key words into the search engine of the masses and found van Gough’s painting Sunflowers almost instantly. The two arrangements look quite alike.

* Remember when there wasn’t one dominant one? There were Lycos, Hotbot, Infoseek, Excite, Alta Vista, Ask Jeeves, and Yahoo!, which still has pretensions to be a search engine, and many others. Now Bing, the Microsoft offering, has mounted an attempt to breach the Google ramparts, but signs aren’t good. It doesn’t seem to do what I want it to do, even though I know it is trying to sort searches for relevance or something like that. It seems unlikely to take over any time soon.

Published in: on March 25, 2010 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

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