Google, the god that failed?

Inside the Internet.
July 16 2003 11:39 AM

Digging for Googleholes

Google may be our new god, but it's not omnipotent.

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You can't really hold Google responsible for these blind spots. Each of them is just a reflection of the way the Web has been organized by the millions who have contributed to its structure. But the existence of Googleholes suggests an important caveat to the Google-as-oracle rhetoric: Google may be the closest thing going to a vision of the "group mind," but that mind is shaped by the interests and habits of the people who create hypertext links. A group mind decides that Apple Computer is more relevant than the apples that you eat, but that group doesn't speak for everybody.

We're wrong to think of Google as a pure reference source. It's closer to a collectively authored op-ed page—filled with bias, polemics, and a skewed sense of proportion—than an encyclopedia. It's still the connected world's most dazzling place to visit, a perfect condensation of the Web's wider anarchy. Just don't call it an oracle.

Steven Johnson is the author of five books, including Everything Bad Is Good For You andThe Ghost Map, and co-founder of Outside.in.

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