There is absolutely no doubt, Google is one of the biggest reasons the internet is so popular in the 21st century. The ability to know any detail at the click of a button (or on a voice request you feel like) is not just stunning, but redefining the way we accumulate knowledge and information. Not only does Google provide search results, but it manages to provide a host of other services that make it easy and fun to use the Internet (putting aside the privacy concerns, for now, that’s an issue for another time) to get work done, and prove our friends wrong when it comes to the minute details about our favorite film or celebrity. Of late, the student community has voiced its concerns about the need for teachers, textbooks, and education when everything is available so easily online. The fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on which side you take) solution is that Google can never truly replace education, and will always co-exist with other sources of information. Google can never truly be the ‘big boss’ we all envision, and there are plenty of reasons why.
Not All Information Is True
Let’s face it. The ultimate issue is that since information on Google is crowd-sourced it is not necessarily true. This is a big heartbreak we all have to learn to live with. It is far too easy to set up a website and upload information, and easy (although a bit expensive) to ensure that the website comes right at the top of the results, thanks to Search Engine Optimisation(SEO). Thus, it is hard to trust any information that is available- it requires years of patience and hard work to ensure that the information available is as true as possible. Thanks to the feedback mechanism that social media has created, it does help solve the issue to a small extent.
There Is No Absolute Truth
Today, social media has ensured that everyone irrespective of their gender, caste, religion, country and language has a voice. The ability to speak out is perhaps the greatest plus point that social media has. This, however, is also its biggest drawback. In case of any incident, there will always be several angles and now all these angles seem to be equally true. It requires great skill to be able to know which version is the absolute truth, and often it is impossible to tell. In the spirit of democracy, all must be heard but the subsequent information overload makes it a great challenge to be able to tell the right from the wrong. In many cases, everyone seems to be on the right, and Google being Google will feed you the information you want to hear, irrespective of what that means in the larger context.
As mentioned above, information overload is a key issue. The sheer number of results Google returns in milliseconds can make one’s head spin. Not knowing what is the truth and what isn’t, and having to spend hours deciphering the truth from the false is a long process that isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of fun. As the number of devices vying for our attention grows every day, we constantly find ourselves buried under a mountain of information that does cause more harm than good. This overload of information can never truly be fought against, sometimes it is better to just follow the textbook.
Student’s Time Wasted
Given the above three reasons, it’s not always a good idea to Google the night before an exam, and imagine having to do so without a textbook or syllabus to guide. With no idea of the ‘age appropriate’ content or material that is provided by the syllabus/textbook it would be highly unlikely that we would all pass our exams. It is indeed a waste of time, energy, and effort. Looks like textbooks aren’t dead after all!
Given all the above reasons (especially the last one) it is quite hard to see how Google has a chance of reducing our cranial capacities and putting textbooks in the museum. It will always be one of the best search engines, and undoubtedly push the boundaries of what’s possible but can never truly replace the power of our brains. If anything else, Google has only helped to increase the capacity, as we now have the ability to remember larger amounts of data (confidently knowing that Google got our backs), and how to be smarter online by avoiding the dangerous waters of the internet and also helped shape the way we work curtsy the connected services Google provides. When one looks at the interconnected services that Google provides, one may be tempted to think that there is no stopping the Google influence but that is not the absolute truth.
It is true that Google’s services such as Drive, Sheets, Docs, AdWords and YouTube have redefined what it means to work in the digital age, but having said that they are not the end-all options that customers have. Competing services from Microsoft, Apple and smaller other companies provide a more open playing field, and despite Google being the most popular it is very much confined by its competitors. Google cannot simply do whatever it wants, especially at the cost of consumer privacy which companies like Apple work so hard to prevent. In the connected world that we now live in, it is of paramount importance that privacy isn’t sacrificed. Although Google may say otherwise the truth is quite clear- users are being tracked every day, every minute they are online in order to provide better and more ‘relevant’ information. This is quite a dicey issue and one that needs careful planning and deliberation before laws and policies are framed around the Internet’s services for the modern age. Techniques like ‘differential privacy’ that Apple uses are not foolproof either, what is done on the internet stays on the internet. Thus everyone leaves a digital footprint which can be exploited by anyone with knowledge of computer systems.
It may seem scary at the outset, but it is a sacrifice we have to make in order to stay relevant today, users are asked to give themselves up to be a part of the modern world but that does not mean that they are completely exposed. Governments and private companies still believe in the notion of privacy, and as the world gets more connected it is possible that it will be more strongly enforced. Companies like Google will have to operate within these laws, which will cause a dramatic shift in the way we behave online. No matter how big a company gets, it cannot simply rule the world for today we live in a society built on hierarchy, one that always has someone above.