Tuesday, August 24, 2010

the shallows of Google

Still processing through the book “The Shallows” by Nicholas Carr. I recommend it for parents, teachers, youth pastors, pastors, professors, and anyone who may want to care for their own mind and the minds of others. It contains valuable insights into the human brain, and how it is being quickly rewired in ways that we would benefit from paying attention to.

Especially as a parent, I want to raise my daughters in such a way that they know things. Not just facts and figures, but actually know a subject, as opposed to simply knowing how to find what is known about it. One chapter in the book dives deep into the shallow and complex world of Google. Up until reading much of this, I'd assumed Google was simply another internet company, aiming to make money while doing whatever work it does toward new technology in the meantime.

As it turns out, there is far more going on in the Google empire. Carr gives many examples and quotes from Google's own top dogs, that boil down to this:

“In Google's view, information is a kind of commodity, a utilitarian resource that can, and should, be mined and processed with industrial efficiency. The more pieces of information we can “access” and the faster we can distill their gist, the more productive we can become as thinkers. Anything that stands in the way of the speedy collection, dissection, and transmission of data is a threat not only to Google's business but to the new utopia of cognitive efficiency it aims to construct on the Internet.”

“The last thing the company wants is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. Google is, quite literally, in the business of distraction.”

The god that Google has created out of “efficiency” leads to sacrifices. As they continue to grow, and achieve goals such as digitizing the texts of countless numbers of books, they encourage compartmentalizing cohesive thought, and deep meditation on single works becomes increasingly rare. Instead of carving out time to sit in quiet, and turning pages, I can merely click a button to get a snippet from a book – surrounded by advertising appropriate to my previous searches or the book I'm currently dissecting.

In the meantime, I recognize the giant amount of irony in quoting passages that point a finger at Google for dissecting books for selfish purposes. Added to that, the fact that most of my 20 or so readers every day find my page by clicking through Google. So smile at how silly I am.

1 comment:

Jake T said...

I'd be more concerned about getting information about the philosophy of a company the size of Google from one source, a source with a clearly stated agenda.

I'm not saying that to defend Google...just a friendly reminder that things are rarely as simple as they're made out to me.