Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Age of Google (4): the future

(The previous installment: Web 2.0)

It is hard to imagine how a barely 10-year-old company has been the logo of our age for several years already. But Google has done it. Google has so far satisfactorily solved two major demands of our age---information overload (through Google search) and generic globalization (through being the leader of Web 2.0).

However, does it mean that Google has become invincible? Sramana Mitra has cautiously denied this supposition, and I agree to her. Google is at its peak. The age of Google is passing.

Negative side of Google

Nothing in this world is perfect; so is Google. Inevitably, here are three major negative impacts Google has brought to this age.

1) loss of think

Is Google changing how our brains physically work? Garett Rogers, however, is not the only one who questions it. Nicholas Carr, a well-known thinker and writer on cutting edge technologies, also asked the same question at The Atlantic. The title of his article is: Is Google Making Us Stupid?

"Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." (Google's corporation mission statement)

Ironically, this divine mission statement of Google is where the problem seats. If we go over the history of mankind, only one another human behavior is comparable to Google's mission, i.e., the behavior of producing fake gods.

Google dreams that one day the interface of google.com might not just be the magic door Ali Baba approached and search queries through the interface would be more than "open sesame." By contrast, the interface would be the Gate towards the God while search queries be individual pleas to the God. When this divine mission would be fulfilled, Google must have had been indistinct to God.

Instructed (implicitly or explicitly) by this philosophy, Google behaves itself like any of the other man-made gods. These man-made gods anesthetize human mind by telling them thoroughly trusting what these gods say. Hence extraordinary, individual thinking becomes discouraged while blind following is encouraged. This is what Nick told that Google is making us stupid since we are losing the intention to think actively because of Google, as many previous man-made gods have done (and are still doing) to us.

2) neglect of individuals

Google's objective Web search policy has overlooked the value of individuals. In general, Google encourages collectivism overtaking individualism.

In the prefect world Google rules, individuals have the right of free speech but their voices may hardly be heard unless the voices have enough large of volume (i.e., enough number of votes on the Web). In general, the Long Tail effect is only applicable to the unpopular topics. To the major popular issues, low voices would simply be neglected as if they are the truly negligible long tails discarding the real quality of content the low voices may have.

The world Google rules is where rich people get richer. Although this philosophy is a common fact in the real world, there is lack of mechanism of balance in the world Google rules to control the spread of the unevenness. In the real world, we have government using its compelling power to make balance between rich and poor. But there is no such a government-like force on the Web Google rules. As the result, the unevenness of Web resource deployment could only be more and more severe. If the age of Google last longer, the Web will be full of all kinds of monopolies while single regular individuals may totally lose (in contrast to gain) their voices.

3) discouragement of creativity

In the world Google advocates, true value is more about popularity than intrinsic personality. That is, it matters less on how valuable the content is. The one that really counts heavily is how much popular a content is linked. Though it is true that many times we may trust public votes from people, which is the secret about the wisdom of crowd, truly novel creation rarely gets popular at the beginning.

In long term, the philosophy represented by the PageRank algorithm is a discouraging factor to human creativity. Many times, we humans indeed intentionally look for unpopular answers to expand our mind. Such a human behavior protects and leverages human creativity. However, Google generally discourages this performance.

Because of the three major negative impacts Google brings, it is unlikely that Google may keep on its incomparable dominance over the Web for long time. Very critically, Google cannot solve these problems by itself because they are based on the fundamental structure of the company. Therefore, the age of Google will pass. It is inevitable.

The future

We must save the Web. By saving the virtual world, we save our real world and eventually ourselves. Google has made great contribution for the Web evolution. When time goes on, however, the negative effect of Google is gradually beating its positive impact. Now it is the time to seek for CHANGE.

Change should be done in varied ways. For example, we must encourage users to think more rather than to search more. Moreover, we need to foster individuals and empower some government-like force to stop the ever-increasing trend of monopolization of information distribution on the Web. At last, we look for the renaissance of delicate semantic analysis over content in contrast to the superficial analysis of link popularity, through which novel creation may become more accessible for people looking for innovations.

Subjective search (represented by such as Mahalo and Delver), Semantic-oriented services (represented by such as Hakia and Open Calais), and think-prompting services (represented by such as Imindi) will be the fresh forces in the next evolutionary trend. Look for better balance between subjectiveness and objectiveness (or between individualism and collectivism), better mixture of meaning accuracy and link popularity, and better blend about active thinking and passive searching will be the main melody of the future Web.

We should not regretted of the passing of the age of Google. Google will remain to be a great company as Microsoft is still. However, we need new forces to lead us to walk beyond Google could lead us. After the age of Google, we will only obtain a new age that is more brilliant.

Referenced resources:

1 comment:

gregory said...

cultural revolutions come and go, often lasting longer than one individual's lifespan ... but lif always adjusts..

whether google-mind, or kim jong mind, or the cultural revolutioin of china, or nazi germany, entire societies go insane.

i like your points about google influence, but i don't worry about it because i have meditated long enough that i know consciousness is primary ... society can do what it wants. and will.

enjoy, gregory lent