Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Oceans of Information

I take pride in saying this: I have become a Google Addict. So much so that if Google ever goes offline, then I shall start suffocating like a fish would, out of water. Google is an integral part of life of almost anyone.

If you hear a word you don't understand (or some lyrics you don't catch), don't die. Just go to a computer and type an appropriate query in Google. I guess ours is the only generation that can boast that it has all the information it needs. I mean, is there anything that you cannot find on Google? If you want to know the Name of Yoko Ono's grandmom, you can find it on Google. If you're searching for recipies, then google can give serve them to you on a platter. Anything. So much so that there are almost no unanswered questions in today's world. Whatever is known to the human race is known to you.

This is what economists would call perfect information, I guess. Maybe this has a role in raising the efficiency of today's life in general (especially in stock markets and in the scientific community).

The online revolution, not unlike most coins, however, has its other side. With almost infinite information in front of us, we choose just what we want to know, and turn a blind eye to everything else. Given a choice, I would follow links to stories that I find more relevant personally, such as those on my subject (say, Energy). But I would not have the time to read articles on other fields - such as Nano Technology and even Politics! This means that there is selectivity of information, which might narrow one's perspective. (This argument was mooted by My Project guide a few weeks ago.)

And also, I cannot but wonder whether this 'search engine mania' is killing our creativity. What happened to the good old Human habit of being creative and answering the questions the hard way - by observation and intuition? Before theorizing, most people key questions into search engines, and they have answers in not time.

All said and done, search engines (their tendency to nip creativity in the bud notwithstanding) are so important in today's world that anyone who does not have access to the same is risking a lot of competition.

Personally, almost all my knowledge in my field of study is culled in some form or the other from google (and other search engines). With the emergence of sites such as scholar.google.com and scirus.com, literature surveys have become all the less formidable. Professors watch their students in envy and look back nostalgically at those golden days when a literature survey meant long hours of sitting in the library with card perusing prolix abstracts. They get a superior feeling over us. They used to work more. They feel happy about that.

I really need to learn how to end blogs! This one is ending quite abruptly.

The term google is Generic. It represents the set of all search engines in the world, such as search.yahoo.com and www.altavista.com. It's just that Google is to search what Xerox is to photocopy. Come on, "I 'yahooed' a question" sounds very lame!

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