The Google Search Box & The Outsourcing Of Our Brains

We’ve all done it:

  • “What was the name of that actor from that movie?”
  • “I forget his address. He used to live in or around New Brunswick.”
  • “I’m pretty certain it was 1983. Not 1984. Let me me check..”

By typing in a few spuriously connected words into a search box we get our answer. Hell, I still type “pizza ninos 11209” to get the Nino’s Pizzeria phone number.’ve come to accept the harsh fact that we use our mobile phone address book as a crutch. Excluding maybe three or four numbers, we’ve committed none of them to memory. Why should we? They’re all right there in our pocket. The mobile phone, that wonder of communication, is a crutch. And we use it.

Well if the mobile phone is a crutch then Google is a wheelchair. Google is getting smarter. Other search engines are as well. As a result, we’ve outsourced part of our mental labor to the Internet. Face it, we recall a lot less not that the search box is everywhere. It’s no longer about getting to a computer anymore. Wifi is everywhere and its on our phones as well.

I wonder where we’re headed with all this? Does this dependency make us better? Do we reclaim that bandwidth for far more umm, “advanced” processes and higher thinking?

Now that I’ve vented a bit, I’m not entirely sure what to do. Do I stop using search engines for “quick lookups”? Flush my cell phone’s address list? How do get my fat brain off the couch and start exercising some more?

One of Google’s lofty goals is to “organize the world’s information.” That’s all well and good. Access to information is a powerful, seemingly altruistic end. Or is it? Digging slightly deeper, I’m not sure its about accessing the world’s information as much as it is about making the world’s information immediately accessible…which begs the question: who said we wanted all information to be a few clicks away?

I’ll close with yet another bit of Short-Attenion-Span Theater. This one has a somewhat relevant message though:

The above is a clip from Nitin Sawhney’s Prophecy (an excellent album).

2 Comments The Google Search Box & The Outsourcing Of Our Brains

  1. felix

    > Does this dependency make us better?
    Absolutely. Not having to remember endless amounts of trivia frees our brain power for other purposes. Whether we use this extra capacity to solve creative problems or veg-out to youtube is our choice.
    Anyone who is focusing on complex tasks has to block out mundane thought processes to some extent (e.g. the absent-minded professor).


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