One aspect of the internet–and, especially, Google–that flat-out amazes me is the ability to write virtually any question into the search engine and get an extensive list of articles that answer my question.
I’m not just talking about typing “Kentucky” into the search engine and getting a list of articles on Kentucky. I’m talking about asking specific questions like “How many members in Congress?” or “How many meters in a mile?” and getting an instant answers (“435” and “1,609.34”)–not just a list of articles that might hold the answer.
I’m even talking about asking “fuzzy” questions like “How many States have legalized marijuana?” and getting an instant list of articles that can be researched in just a few more minutes of my time.
Google’s capacity to not merely list of articles on a specific subject, but even answer specific questions is an extraordinary research capability for writers. I.e., I can start to write an article on a primary subject and then–if I dimly recall some second subject or incident that might help illustrate my primary subject–simply ask a question about that “dimly-recalled” subject and “instantly” find an express answer or at least several articles that include that answer. This research capacity allows me to achieve in minutes what might’ve once taken hours or weeks to achieve–or perhaps couldn’t have been achieved at all.
I guarantee that Google makes my IQ appear 10 points higher than it really is. Google allows me to do research almost instantly. That instantaneous research allows me to write more articles and be more prolific. Google allows me to “connect the dots” that I only suspect may exist.
So, I’ve been a Google fan for several years–despite the fact that many American are deeply concerned about Google’s insatiable appetite for gathering data and creating profiles on every American. Like a cold, technological Santa Claus, Google “knows what you’ve been reading; it knows when you’re awake; it knows if you’ve been bad or good,so be good for Google’s sake! Hey!”
If Google hasn’t already become Big Brother, it seems headed in that direction.
Nevertheless, until now, Google has been like an garrulous wife: I couldn’t trust her to keep my secrets, but on the other hand, she’d answer all my questions (which is an enormous blessing for a writer).
Until today. Google didn’t answer my question today. First, I was surprised. I rephrased my question and again Google failed to answer. I rephrased and rephrased my question again–at least a dozen times–and Google still failed to answer.
I’m deeply concerned. I’m not surprised; I’m shocked. This is the first time Google has ever failed to answer my questions, and given the variety of rephrased questions I posed today, I have to conclude that that this is not a failure, per se, but a refusal. Google is refusing to answer my question.
I may have to divorce the bitch.
• The problem started last Sunday, when two Las Vegas police officers were murdered as they sat eating lunch. This morning, I read an article about the murders in The Washington Times entitled “Vegas rampage underscores the rise of violent radicals; cop killings up 53%” which declared in part,
“The slayings of officers Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31, who were gunned down while having lunch at a pizza buffet, add to a trend that has law enforcers worried that they are becoming the targets of crime.
“’We are seeing more direct violence as a result of radical groups, and that does concern us,’ said Rich Roberts, a spokesman for the International Union of Police Associations. ‘There seems to be more people out there who are blatantly anti-cop, and heavy exposure through the Internet and other propaganda seems to make people with these violent views feed off each other.’
“This year is on track to be one of the most deadly for police officers since 2001, when terrorists hit the World Trade Center, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks crimes against law enforcers nationally. There have been 23 law enforcement shooting deaths so far this year, compared with 15 shooting deaths at this time last year.”
That’s a 53% rise as compared to A.D. 2014. The percentage is impressive, but the numbers are comparatively small. There’ve been just eight more cops killed so far this year than last. That’s about 1.6 more cops killed per month than last year. Is this evidence of a trend or merely a statistical aberration?
Knowing how many cops had been killed so far this year, I wanted to find out how many civilians had been killed by cops this year so I could discuss that comparison on tonight’s radio show.
So I asked Google, “How many civilians have been killed by cops in 2014“? Google responded with a series of articles on the Las Vegas shooting of the two police officers (including article warning about the dreaded “white supremacy” and “sovereign citizens’ movements). But Google did not answer my question about how many “civilians” had been killed by cops.
I was suprised. I’ll bet I’ve posed several hundred questions to Google and this was the first time Google ever failed to provide a proper answer. I didn’t ask about how many cops had been shot, I asked about how many civilians had been shot by cops.
Somehow, Google misunderstood my question. I thought I might’ve made a mistake in my choice of words. So, I rephrased:
“How many people have been killed by cops in 2014“? Again, Google sent me a series of articles on Sunday’s murders of two Las Vegas cops.
Now, my eyes are beginning to narrow and I’m starting to wonder what’s going on at Google? I’m beginning to suspect that the problem is not my choice of words, but Google’s refusal to answer my question and perhaps even Google’s insistence that I read what Google wants me to read.
I continued to rephrase my questions: “civilians killed by cops in 2014”; “civilians killed by cops”; “citizens killed by cops”; “cop kills citizen”; “cops kill citizens”; “cops kill”, etc.–and every time, Google directed me to the articles on the murders of two Las Vegas police officers and the warnings about “white supremacy” and “sovereign citizens” movements.
It’s not impossible that Google’s programmers simply screwed up. Maybe Google’s computers mistakenly presume that, in the immediate aftermath of the Las Vegas murders, every inquiry that uses the words “cops” and “kill” are directed to the Las Vegas murders. A couple of days from now, perhaps the Google programers will correct their error, and I when I ask “How many civilians/ citizens/ people have been killed by cops?,” I’ll get a straight answer.
Perhaps Google’s apparent refusal to answer my questions is actually evidence of a benign mistake or misunderstanding.
But I’ve relied on Google to answer my questions for several years, and I’ve never before seen a single failure until today’s persistent and multiple failures to provide answers. I can’t avoid the conclusion that someone at Google is intentionally promoting the government’s “party line”. Someone at Google is inhibiting my ability to easily discover answers to questions that Google and/or government thinks “inappropriate”. Apparently, somebody at Google doesn’t want me to know how many civilians have been killed by cops. Insofar as that’s true, that only makes me more determined to find the answer to that question.
Google’s motto–“Don’t be evil”–has apparently become as irrelevant as “In God We Trust”.
• DuckDuckGo.com is a search engine that allegedly doesn’t keep track of where you’ve been and presumably doesn’t create profiles of you based on your internet surfing and buying habits. I don’t trust anything digital. I don’t believe there’s any privacy in the internet age. I hope DuckDuckGo is telling the truth and doesn’t spy on us, but how could I confirm that hope? Believe what DuckDuckGo says? I might as well believe Obama.
Despite DuckDuckGo’s claims to provide privacy, I haven’t used that search engine because I don’t believe that it’s as “complete” as Google. See, if I use Google to research a certain subject, I might get 2 million hits while I might only get 50,000 hits with DuckDuckGo.
(But, now that I think about it, that’s a pretty dumb reason to avoid DuckDuckGo. I’ll probably never read more than two or three articles on whatever subject I’m researching anyway, so what difference does it make if Google will provide 2 million more articles that I won’t read while DuckDuckGo will only provide 50,000 that I won’t read?)
In any case, I decided to compare DuckDuckGo to Google. I typed “How many civilians killed by cops” into the DuckDuckGo search engine and instantly received a long list of articles (I don’t know how many) but the top 20 articles all answered my question or dealt with subject I’d asked about. Where Google couldn’t/wouldn’t answer my question (about how many civilians killed by cops) once in a dozen different inquiries, DuckDuckGo provided 20 articles answering my question in the first try.
I think my choice of search engines is moving from Google to DuckDuckGo. There’ll still be times when I use Google (it has a vastly superior collection of images that I can use in my blog articles). There may be times when the DuckDuckGo articles don’t meet my requirements, and I’ll try Google again.
But today’s experience makes me strongly suspect that Google is no longer the independent and impartial supplier of information I previously supposed. Somebody, perhaps ultimately the gov-co, appears to be exerting an undue influence on “sensitive” information that Google might otherwise supply. Someone appears to be intentionally restricting my access to the “dots” that I want to connect.
I can’t accept that. My divorce from Google may be “civilized”. We might get together once in a while. But the honeymoon . . . and the marriage . . . are now over.