I am a little frightened by Google, though, I would not protest if my blog was at the top of the page when the name Tim was entered. Everyone has his price. (Coincidentally, if my full name is entered, old cross country results appear—once upon a time I was a decent athlete.)
I recall the first time hearing Google as a verb was in the movie Hitch. The proper noun was synonymous with ‘finding something out.’ This is not far from Google’s mission: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’
Google has its critics. Copyright lawyers have sued Google for infringement. Legislators have tried to block the company for monopolizing the search engine world. An attempt to purchase Yahoo was recently shot down for that very reason. And some Internet users are bothered by the permeation of advertising behind the engine.
My problem with the virtual Googliath is philosophical. In an age of relativity, truth is now defined by popularity. Google is the antithesis of the elementary school geek: In Googleland, you’re popular if you get a lot of hits. The result is people confusing accessibility of information with usefulness.
“Electric Faith,” is the title of Chapter Six in Flickering Pixels, in which Hipps discusses the effects of the Internet on Christian thinking. The chapter opens with Hipps recalling a failed witnessing effort. Mustering up the arguments of C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and other apologists, Hipps realized he had answers to questions post-modernists were not asking.
We can blame the Internet and Wikipedia for taking truth from authority figures and moving it to the voices of anonymous contributors, but the trend started long before in Morse’s invention of the telegraph. Morse’s initial message, Hipps reports, was prophetic: What hath God wrought? (pg. 66). In arguably the best line of the book, Hipps notes “[T]he telegraph tapped out the obituary of absolute Truth and created the conditions necessary to usher in the postmodern age” (pg. 68).
The reason the telegraph, and later the radio, television, and Internet, were so dangerous is the rate in which they sped up the flow of information. Thus, ‘information increasingly became a commodity in itself, something that could be bought and sold’ (pg. 67). In his book, The Disappearance of Childhood, Neil Postman says that television is a medium that ‘must be filled’ and does not discriminate concerning its content. The lack of filtering and the unlimited access has, according to Postman, killed childhood. Moreover, it makes me think that Google’s mission to make information ‘accessible’ is, in ironically misinformed.
By dissolving mystery and secrecy, such media have likewise destroyed accountability. Unlimited access to information has created a false sense of maturity. Wisely, Hipps takes the second half of the chapter to distinguish between ‘information, understanding, and wisdom’ (pg. 70). He convicts our culture of being trivial and wisdom-depleted. To develop wisdom we need ‘time, experience, contemplation, patience, suffering, and even stillness’ (pp. 71-72).
I know too many information junkies. I hear too many people reciting irrelevant news stories. I have encountered too many folks who are data-fat but common-sense deficient. Let us slow down so we can learn and apply.
Perhaps this is why you should be reading the book (or The Book), not this blog.