Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Cold Gettin' Stupid or: Google Didn't Start The Fire

Back in July of this year, Encyclopedia Britannica board member Nicholas Carr's article 'Is Google Making Us Stupid?' appeared in The Atlantic. It was a phenomenal hit. As the new Borg, Google is the company to hate right now. Right now, hating Microsoft is as passe as hating N'Sync or The Spice Girls. It kind of has an air of un-necessary kick 'em when they're down meanness, even, like the Britney Spears jokes of last year. So, be like the cool kids, be like Nicholas Carr, who I must grudgingly admit has pretty good taste in music, and get on the Google-bashing bandwagon.

Another reason for the success of Carr's article is that stupidity is everywhere. Computers have boosted people's productivity in many ways, and in one category particularly computers have shined. They have enabled stupid people to do more faster, and reach a wider audience for their stupidity, than ever would have been thought possible as recently as 1983. The explosion in stupidity and all the technologies which have enabled stupid people to reach each other and be stupid and make stupid plans to do stupid shit has profound and far-reaching ramifications.

Facebook, for example, has a phenomenally, illogically stupid valuation based on essentially helping stupid people get in touch with morons they went to high school with, or other idiots who share their moronic passions, so that they might join together under the sacrament of most holy matrimony and bless the world with their stupid spawn. Facebook sucks the intelligent people into their vortex, even pulling some really smart people from Google, so that they may spend the best, most productive years of their brilliant, hot as the surface of the sun minds on things we didn't even know we wanted or needed, like Beacon or those gawdawful (except for the delightful, copyright-violating Scrabulous) widgets. Facebook (and Google, and Apple) suck the intelligent out of the brain pool to work on trivial, candy-ass bullshit.

There's a whole lot of stupid on display in the halls of academia, in our corporate boardrooms, on Wall Street, and in Congress. Somebody must be held responsible, because accountability is important, so how about Google? Google is the 12 million immigrants taking our jobs of stupidity.

Unfortunately, Nicholas Carr is full of shit. Google isn't making us stupid at all. It's aging that's making us stupid. The stars are not going out, the Astronomer's vision is failing. Look, son: that being the case, I can compensate for my failing (and it was never that great, let's be honest) memory via Google, just like I can get from here to Vermont really fast even though I have bad knees, thanks to a little thing called the airplane. Perhaps you've heard of it? Google Reader DOES overwhelm me, but I've resigned myself to the fact I can't read everything in my feeds, kind of like I resigned myself to the fact I wouldn't read every book in my little town's library when I WAS EIGHT YEARS OLD!

I still read books. Good writing still pulls me in. Maybe I read 8 books at once, jumping back and forth, but I read books. I will never give up the books. If I want to read for an extended period of time, I want paper, dammit! I even read Infinite Jest, and I even read the footnotes. All of them (R.I.P. and Infinite Respect, David Foster Wallace).

So from where I stand, as a kind of over the hill dude who in Roman times would be dead by now, and as recently as 1977 would have been pushed to the margins with the millions of other nerds whose profession hadn't been invented yet, I have to regard the Google-bashing with considerable skepticism.

Many people, mostly really, really bad comedians, like to mock the Amish because they shun technology. If, like me, they'd take the time to read the 10 page pamphlet you can pick up at the store in Amish Country for free (but don't be a cheap bastard, buy something), they'd know the Amish see the automobile as something that tears communities and families apart. It enables the construction of suburbs, artificial communities where one of the luxuries is not having to know or talk to your neighbors (you can talk to people on Facebook, remember), it encourages dependence on foreign oil, and it threatens our environment. Does this mean the automobile is evil?

Oh well, never mind. Rather than go further down that path maybe you should find some YouTube videos of a dude getting hit in the nuts with a football.

1 comment:

Bruce said...
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