Saturday, November 01, 2003

Google and God

Anyone who seriously equates Google and God must be both intellectually and spiritually impoverished.
originally posted November 1st, 2003

Is Google God? (Thomas Friedman, June 2003)
There, but for the grace of Google (Ben Macintyre, May 2005)
Stick to what you don't know (David Carr, May 2005)

Is Google omniscient? Only if all the knowledge in the world is accessible via the Internet, and Google provides reliable access to this knowledge. Neither of these conditions is valid.

Google and GooglePlex represent very large finite numbers. There is always a finite number of results from a Google search, and only a fraction of these are factual, meaningful, relevant or valuable. In contrast, God is usually conceived as infinite.

Many improvements to Google have been suggested, and some of these might improve the fact, meaning, relevance and/or value of a search-act. Google becomes a kind of Panopticon, watching the whole world watching the whole world.

The suggested improvements are just great for those people who want to ask the same questions as everyone else, and get the same answers. Google rankings already depend on the clicks of previous websurfers, and this dependency will become more sophisticated. Google will therefore support, with ever-greater efficiency and effectiveness, an intellectual activity characterized by A.A. Milne (author of Winnie-The-Pooh) as "Thinking with the Majority".

Many believers say God is not sitting on a cloud somewhere, God is in ourselves, in our hearts. When Google is equated with God, we are supposed to interpret this equation as referencing not the Google software nor the Google company, but the Internet community as a whole - ourselves as Google users. And perhaps we geeks are supposed to be flattered by this.

But however much of our minds and our lives we publish on the Internet, lots of stuff - perhaps even the most important stuff - cannot be published, cannot be put into TXT and JPEG.

And the things that are really worth searching for - integrity, wisdom, justice, courage and love - are not simply listed on Google but can only be found through focal practices, and through authentic engagement with other people.

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