The Google Search Engine, Determining Our Decisions?

By: Aaron Petit, Thomas DiMarco, Mike, and Mary Kate Buckman

The first Internet search engine was created in 1990 by Alan Emtage and it was called Archie. The Archie Search Form created an industry and medium that Google would eventually dominate. Archie worked a lot like Google, it made the scattered information on the Internet accessible and user friendly by combining a “script-based data gatherer” with a “regular expression matcher” for retrieving file names matching what the user entered. What makes Google different is how it handles that task now that it has become far more difficult. There were only a few hundred websites before 1993 and now the number has exceeded 1 billion. Google manages them all by prioritizing websites using a complicated algorithm which predicts what the user wants to see. Google is popular because it can give its user an answer, as opposed to an endless list of websites. More often than not the thing your looking for will be on the first page.

This success has made Google a powerhouse of information and knowledge. Need to know what the weather will be tomorrow? Learning the answer is as simple as clicking a button. Most of our society uses Google on a daily basis for information, entertainment, or finding an address. While this goes on, however, the information is recorded and the search engine uses it to see what content is trending at the time. As a society keen on what is new and trending it is only natural for Google to funnel our search history into its algorithm, this is how they meet the demand. This allows the search bar to show what was most looked up and or trending, but does this affect our knowledge of the world and how we should think? Possibly so. Nicholas Carr is a pulitzer prize winner that has written extensively on the effects of the Internet, and he says, “the internet will take our ability for contemplation due to the plasticity of our brains.”

The “plasticity of our brains” refers to the brain’s ability to change over time because new knowledge reorganizes and restructures neural connections. Google is an easy and reliable source of knowledge and is able to be used by anyone. Unfortunately, the only information we are likely to read will be found on the first or second page of Google Search. The algorithm determining if something is trending will bring it closer to the top of the list. As a result, even more people will see it and it will become even more popular. On the Internet information reaches people because it is popular, not necessarily because it is true. Even with all the information that the Internet has about a given subject, everyone will see the same links and therefore receive the same information, making waste of the vast majority of the information on the internet. As important as Google has become, this flaw has serious potential dangers.

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Google is a free search engine, which means that anyone with internet access can utilize it. It gives widespread access to information and makes today’s technological society possible. For example, there are approximately 2.3 million Google searches worldwide per second. It can extend our visual and audio senses with search results of videos, images, articles, and more, which in combination with it’s popularity can give it power and influence over a large group of people. Studies show that Google can rig elections by swaying undecided voters. “Google’s search algorithm, propelled by user activity, has been determining the outcomes of close elections worldwide for years” according to Robert Epstein. Google’s prevailing impact on people today could have a major negative effect.

Google has largely influenced all older forms of media, namely television and newspaper. In fact, it has somewhat replaced paper maps, encyclopedias, movie theaters, and countless other former mainstream forms of media. Before, people went to those mediums to get information or entertainment, but now people can have a similar experience with a lot less effort and money by looking them up on Google. The older forms of media have either evolved to stay relevant or become obsolete because of this.  Newspapers, for example, are now primarily found and read online, with the number of physical paper editions steadily decreasing. Other mediums such as online television and movie streaming, as well as ebooks and magazines, are being used more as a result of the ease and accessibility by which people can access them thanks to Google. There is definitely a form of medium bias in Google’s search algorithm because it could express the company’s viewpoint on certain issues and influence the opinions of others. It’s visual and audio extension give it major power to influence our opinions.

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