How Google makes us stupid…


… the search engine of the world

… the gate to boundaryless information

… the emergency helper we turn to if we don’t know anything

… the organizer of the world wide web

… the solver of our problems

Google has taken over the above-mentioned, and probably even much more, roles in the life of most of us. It has become the world’s most popular search engine by far, as Danny Sullivan points out while referring to data. With, for example, more than 114.7 billion searches in December 2012, Google owned 65,2% of all worldwide searches. Below you can see Google’s dominance over the last months of 2012 in comparison to its biggest competitors. (“Others” are searches happened on search engines, which don’t belong to the big five).

Goggle Search data

This shows us definitely that Google apparently plays a big role.

Google has become a friend to most of us. Helping us out whenever, wherever we need it.

This, rather funny and ironic Youtube video, illustrates the role of Google nowadays quite well, I think:

Youtube Google

Nicolas Carr also highlights in his highly critical article in the magazine “The Atlantic” that the Internet, respectively Google, has become a universal medium for all information that flows through our eyes and our ears into our brains.

It is probably even our best friend, as we apparently share our deepest and most intimate thoughts and questions with that little search bar underneath the colourful letters. Most of us, use it daily, hourly, minutely, at home, on the go, at work, on holidays…

Speaking of myself, I would say that no single day passes on which I didn’t ask Google something or look for some information on Google. Most of the time my searches are about the weather, locations/maps or information about leisure activities, such as bars or restaurants.

But how far did we come already? Do we pass all “thinking” on to Google?

It’s true, some people, including me, often type really dump or irrelevant questions into Google, for which we, at least most of the time, already know that Google might not be able to provide us with a reasonable answer. However, we still catch ourselves at typing it into Google’s search bar. The following picture of the ‘suggested search terms’ when typing in “why” illustrates that pretty well:

It seems to me that typing questions (stupid or not) into the Google bar has become an automated process, in which we don’t really think in advance whether Google might be able to answer reasonably or not. We just wait what’s happening.

I mean who hasn’t googled “Google” at least once?

We don’t even try to think of a solution by ourselves or try to remember something, as Google is mostly only a short click away on our computer or mobile device, it’s the first thing we do: Google it.

Likewise, a very interesting study of the Columbia University in 2011 found that our memory works differently in times of Google. According to lead researcher Bettsy Sparrow, we have reorganized the way we remember things as we forget or not even try to remember things we are confident we can find on the Internet/Google.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing because search engines in general have made our lives much easier and convenient in a lot of cases, but I am wondering if we loose a bit of our brain capacity as we seemingly not even try anymore to think for ourselves as “Google will do so”.

In addition to that, I have the feeling that we are also less and less able to digest rather longer and extensive information as we are used to skipping through rather short bits and pieces of Google’s search result. By doing that, always looking for the easiest and shortest way to answer our question or search. Here, Nicolas Carr  has some good points. While refering to media theorist Marshal McLuhan, Carr states that the media not only supply the stuff of thought, but that they also shape the process of thought. This means that we nowadays expect to take information in a rather “swiftly moving stream of particles”. – Thanks to Google.

So should we be concerned now?

Google makes us in a lot of cases smarter as we easily can learn about new things and get the information we want and need, BUT it one could say that it makes us to a certain amount a bit more stupid as we apparently pass some brain activity on to Google, while relying on its immense information capacity and accessibility.

Here’s a little test (not yet scientifically proven) to check to what extent Google has already captured YOU: