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It’s Time to Boycott Google

Posted on the 30 November 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
It’s time to boycott Google

Google: An index-card system with ideas above its station.

Oh how quickly we were taken in. I remember it so well, the first, glorious days of the Interweb. Nobody really knew what it was, or what it was for, or how exactly it would make our lives better; but it was there, and suddenly, like the flu in Contagion, everyone had it. But how to navigate around this brave new e-world?

There was the lovely AskJeeves – how I miss him! There was Yahoo, and Lycos, and … something called Google. Oh how we loved Google. Think of the sound of the word! At once it combines uber-geek-cheek (never forget, it comes from the word googolplex) and the sort of bewildering coolness that shows you are up to the minute whilst everyone else isn’t; it also sounds like a baby gurgling, which fitted in perfectly with the youthwards bent of this new experiment. Its logo was as multi-coloured, for heavens’ sake, as the toys we have as a baby. And  because of its ridiculously complicated algorithm, it searched the web much more effectively and much more efficiently than poor old Jeeves, or Lycos, or Yahoo. So it won. If internet search engines were animals, it would be the aggressive, dominating gray squirrel; the other, sweeter, statelier engines gave way, like the nimble red, until they clung on only in a few remote outposts, curiosities for tourists to laugh at.

Like moths to a multi-coloured flame, we dipped our sweaty fingers into Google’s enticing fire. We couldn’t see the darkness beyond it. How did we know that an indexing system would take over our lives? That an advanced form of Dewey’s Cataloguing system would know more about us than our mothers?  Imagine if the filing cabinet in the library mutated. Imagine, when you went to look for a copy of a novel you hadn’t read yet, if it suddenly sputtered into life. Imagine if it knew everything about you – what you’d just read, even what you hadn’t read but wanted to; what you preferred searching for, what you preferred hidden; what you feared, what you secretly loved, what you were embarrassed about. You’d never go back, would you? It’s a freaking filing cabinet!

Like moths to a multi-coloured flame, we dipped our sweaty fingers into Google’s enticing fire.

The specific spur for this view – although it has been building up for a long time –  is Google’s new adverts. They are on the tube, in magazines, and they are more sinister than anything the most fascist of regimes could every come up with. Continuing the theme of infantilisation, they show cheerful, brightly coloured people getting into what are supposedly ridiculous situations. One shows a man in London, knee-deep in water, calling a plumber in New York. Quite why anybody would do this, unless they had recently had their brain removed and replaced with sawdust and expectorated bits of Larry Page’s lunch, is beyond me. Google seem to think it’s plausible, because they think that if they know where you and your computer are, you will be able to  avoid such disasters. Well, Google, I think you’ll find that most people know where they live. I’m sure that even Osama bin Laden, when he was hiding in his Pakistani safe house and the washing machine broke, knew where the nearest plumber was and didn’t accidentally call the one that serviced the White House.

The adverts also try to justify the increasingly creepy way that Google tailors its responses to searches. The idea is that if it “knows” your preferences, it can help you more. It gives the following example: imagine you are searching for “drive”, and instead of getting golf clubs, you get – cars! If that happened to me, I know I’d blow a gasket. Google are saying that if you’ve searched for golf clubs recently, then it will guess that with the word “drive” you’re actually thinking about golf. I have one question for you Google – what if I was actually thinking about cars, you ridiculous, corporate, cultish muppets?

Lets take this to its logical conclusion. Imagine I have an eating disorder and I order too much food online. Google will then only show me the fattiest, most junky restaurants. If I am interested in anorexia, then it will only show me pages about that. The whole idea is so deadening and sickening that it’s almost worse than the opposite –  if Google decided to utilised its morass of information for didactic purposes, and ushered fat people onto diet pages, anorexics onto clinics. Where does that end?  Now that’s a whole other kettle of fish, and it makes me decidedly worried.

Google thinks we are mindless, drooling drones who are not even capable of typing an entire phrase into a search engine, because presumably we are too fat or lazy or stupid. It thinks that we are bound by what we have previously searched for. It thinks that we are children – and not even particularly inquisitive children, at that. I’m glad that Google Plus has been such a massive failure. If I log out of Google Mail on my iPhone, a bossy message comes up telling me to give my location and details so I can join Google Plus. I don’t want to join Google Plus. I don’t want to be told what to do by a machine.

I don’t want to join Google Plus. I don’t want to be told what to do by a machine.

All we need is an efficient method of searching for information. But the danger is that this filing cabinet of index cards is becoming more than what it actually is, than what its actual function is. It the thing that you use to search becomes more important than what you are searching for, then things are really getting out of hand. I think it’s time to take  a stand. Google’s time will come. Don’t forget, it arrived very recently; and it, like many other things, will fade. Who’s to say we’ll even be using computers as they are in 20 years’ time? Forget it. Go back to AskJeeves. Hell, even try Bing. Or maybe even go back to the filing cabinet. We should remember that all Google is, is a search engine. No more, no less. It’s time to boycott Google entirely.

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