I always believed that computers would take over the world. In fact I prayed for it, figuring that quirks in binary evolution and chaos theory would make computers more intelligent than humans, or at least more intelligent than Ann Coulter, which can also be accomplished by crossing a Barbie doll with fresh vegetables.
Google may not be taking over the world, but the search giant is nevertheless trying to organize it. According to The Associated Press, Google Print is Google’s attempt to create a massive digital text repository – the company plans to scan millions of books from the Oxford, Harvard, Stanford and Michigan University libraries, as well as the New York Public Library (at least the books that weren’t destroyed in the first “Ghostbusters” film).
Europeans are protesting this “Americanization” of world literature and thought. Hollywood movies and Reality TV shows are fine, but Europe wants us to keep our fat, Cheetos-stained fingers off Proust.
Some European leaders are considering a “European digital library” to give lesser-known authors a place at the digitization table. In classic overstatement typically reserved for college football coaches, Jean-Noel Jeanneney, president of the French National Library, accused Google of “hijacking the thought of the world.”
This may be true, but given a choice, I would rather have Google hijack my thoughts than the current U.S. Administration, which frankly has a big head start. And I’m not sure a European version would be any better nor fairly represent Africa, South America or the Far East, especially China. If you want to talk serious global takeover, try ordering a latte anywhere in the year 2020 without using Mandarin.
That said we should encourage Google and the European Union to digitize, catalog, organize and otherwise make available any and all material than can be reduced to zeros and ones. Those who can think for themselves will continue to do so; those who can’t will continue to take orders from Rush Limbaugh no matter how much Finnish poetry is made available on the Internet.
The real concern is at what point does a thought cease to exist if it’s not expressed online? Do you exist only if you come up in a Google search? If so, does that mean I don’t need to get my sister anything for her birthday until she starts a blog?
So many questions, so little time before my next Tao of Hyperbole lesson. I’ll leave you with this: If I have to choose between people and computers to tell me how to think, I’ll take my chances with the machines. At least I can turn them off.