What does the world want?

September 16, 2009

I’m going on the record here to say that “The Search” is officially blowing my mind. Thank you author John Battelle. Who knew geeks were capable of such beauty, elegance and creativity. Technology per se will always be a yawn in my book but this Web thing is pretty darn neat! A perfect (and perfectly flawed) expression of out brains, guts and groin. And then there’s the search and its all-knowing Database of Intentions: all our desires, hopes, dreams and intentions linked to a system that can guide us to everything we know and have not yet imagined. Holy crap, that’s some deep shit.

And so now Google knows what our culture wants (and hopes to sell it to us).

In fact, I’m quite sure that Google knew what my X wanted before I did. One day, many clicks ago, I found a stream of Google “history” links to various Austin, Texas sites on the computer that my boyfriend an I shared: “Austin apartments, night life, tennis partners, etc.” Tennis partners? A few weeks later, I was informed by said X of a “great job opportunity in Austin.” And a few weeks after that he was playing tennis with someone else. I was caught by surprise. Google was not.

The road to hell is paved with intentions. Hopefully, our friends at Google can maintain the good ones for a bit longer. But, since heaven and hell are right here on earth, I suppose it would only be human for them to slip a bit. Speaking of which, I found this article interesting and a little concerning: a review from the cool site Publishing 2.0 of Google’s new toy “Fast Flip” and an explanation of what Google (supposedly) understands about the future of news and publishing that publishers do not.

The thing I love about my new friend the Web is its organic evolution and nature. As such, it’s a perfect reflection of the culture that created it: eclectic, networked, messy, diffuse, democratic (sometimes). So, is Google’s new toy “Fast Flip” a reflection of analog or digital culture? Looks to me like a nod to the page turning culture of the bad old monolithic yester years. Why is turning a page so great? Because it reminds us of our safe mass media paper world? If Google stops reflecting the culture that created it – the digital culture – will it lose its power to guide our search? Inquiring Luddites like me would like to know.

Finally, I like what Battelle’s story says about the strength of systems that use the power of networks and collaboration. To that end, here is something for all us journalist types to ponder: Will algorithms make humans editors obsolete?

Sorry for the crappy linking job!