I love to read year-in-review articles. One of the best ones I came across over the holiday break was an insert in the New York Times Magazine from the smarties at Google.
Titled, “A Little Look at a Big Year,” this thin booklet is a brief compendium of the top questions asked of the almighty search engine. Among other time-bound questions like “Is Ebola airborne” and “Who unfollowed me?” the top question asked in 2014 was an eternal one: “What is love?”
This fascinates me. How would Google, a search-engine, know that? And what does it say about us that we are asking it?
In the past, people pursued the answers to life’s big questions in different – and far less easily quantifiable – ways. They wrote letters to specific people with questions buried in the margins. They called out to the heavens, spoke to the sea, or wrote fictions about characters in search of the answers that they as individuals could not find. And while it’s true that we still do many of these things, we also regularly and casually type our questions, big and small, into a simple, blank Google box.
In some ways, the fact that search-engines most frequently field such questions as “What is love?” is reassuring. People still care the most about the things that matter the most, like love.
But as teachers and students know well, answers given is not the same thing as knowledge derived. And because people define and experience love differently, what one is likely to discover about love through Google is what one already suspects – that it is unquantifiable, that it must be experienced to be grasped.
In the end, the answers to unanswerable questions that Google, a digital curator, provides us are no more than tallies of our collective temperature, our shared beliefs. And according to Google, we are still healthily human as we seek to understand what makes us so.
Thanks for sharing your musings and perspective. Powerful commentary. Wishing you and your family much love in 2015!
SO nice to hear from you, Katie!! All best to you and yours as well!