Google’s latest developments in search have been all-the-buzz in my corner of the world these last 24 hours. If you missed it, here’s how Google describes it:
“With personal results, you’ll see relevant tips, photos, and posts from your friends right alongside results from the web.”
And as is often the case, there are people who like it, and there are people who don’t. On the pro side there are who think it’s OK to emphasize Google+ in search results, so long as they make that optional for the user. On the con side, there are those who think Google is mis-behaving, acting too much in their own self-interest by over-emphasizing posts that live in their own social network, Google+.
As for me, I understand why Google is emphasizing Google+ posts, but I understand that in some cases that’s not OK; and I do believe that allowing users to choose the context of their search—the world, or “me”—is an improvement to the interwoven version that had people up in arms last week.
But all this just feels like noise when I take a step back and think about Google and the paradigm in which it operates.
Would I ever want Google to help me recapture my memories?
Is Google about me?
I thought Google was about organizing and making useful and accessible the world’s information. I probably think that because that’s what Google says Google’s about.
Social search, to me, is about a collective memory that I share with people who by some measure are close to me. Not the world, but my world.
To call making sense of the world’s information a huge task is almost laughably out-of-scale with the reality of the situation. Let’s be honest. It’s unimaginably enormous. It’s… inhuman.
With this development, Google has taken a step to make itself seem smaller. More provincial. It’s starting to look more like… me. Like my friends. It’s of a more human scale.
I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I want. I like it as a uniquely useful, reliable and inhuman tool. An algorithm that runs inside whirring computers jammed into dark and refrigerated rooms, with myriad lights blinking out a story that only it understands. Only something like that can make sense of the world’s information. Something like that can make my life better without being my friend.
The Uncanny Valley. When inhuman things look too much like us, but not quite enough, it makes us uncomfortable. With this update, I’m starting to get that creeping feeling.