Poor Google, Stuck with Our Random Searches

Post Date: February 11th, 2012
Image found here

Yesterday I tried to Google something while writing a scene in my YA dystopian novel. But Google can’t help you if you can’t find the words. All I could type was, “What are those…” and pause at my loss of brain function. I was searching for a description of those motorized thingies people ride upright, on sidewalks, looking like a scooter but not really? How the heck do you type that into Google?

Google tried very hard to help. Immediately it offered these top 10 searches, called up when all I wrote was, “What are those…”

  1. What are those pictures with the funny sayings
  2. What are those square barcodes
  3. What are those cameras called that print
  4. What are those little boxes on Twitter
  5. What are those barcode things
  6. What are those Russian hats called
  7. What are those funny pictures called
  8. What are those pictures that move called
  9. What are those scan things
  10. What are those white lines in the sky
Ah, how humanity hankers after knowledge. Though some of us seem particularly obsessed with barcodes and funny moving pictures, some get philosophical (or high) seeing Lucy doing lines in the sky. Perhaps I give the 10th searcher more credit than is due, because if you don’t know what the heck jet trails/contrails/cirrus aviaticus are, then, I’m not sure what to do with you.

I don’t know who these people are, but apparently I’m now a member of their ranks since I couldn’t find words to describe those strange perambulating motorized thingies. Once again, can somebody tell me what the heck they are?

This is why we blog, and this is why we friend people on Facebook. Somebody else has got to know what’s on the tip of our tongues. Because when we put me and a machine together, sometimes no matter how helpful the AI, it just can’t always make associative leaps humans do. I need flesh and blood, neuron and sinew, heart and soul and spark, on the other end of my connection. 

My other thought is, Poor Google. We Americans are a seeking people, yet unsure of our language, keeping only 3,000 words at our disposal. (Unlike Shakespeare who apparently rocked his plays with 54,000.) We wonder, Are we’re getting smarter or dumber, whether our inability to remember phone numbers since caller ID and electronic memory banks like contact lists? Are all these advances dumbing us down, or, are we able to offload more unimportant data and focus on the data that really matters?

Or do these top 10 searches only show our obsession with the trivial and techie? Bar codes, cameras, Twitter, and scans seem to dominate. Thank goodness for someone’s concern over Russian hats.

I could meander so many directions with this subject, web out like the Internet into rabbit holes of trivia, but I do know one thing: curiosity is not dead. People are still asking questions, and their eyes sometimes do leave our screens to contemplate the sky.

Writing Prompts:

  • Do a random Google search with cryptic, vague language. Copy down the top 10 searches. Start a story or poem with one of the 10 lines.
  • Start a story, poem, or essay with a question and make a vow to answer it 5 different ways during the course of your rough draft. Go down various rabbit holes and see where they lead. 
  • Are you getting smarter or dumber? Write smart about it, either way. 
  • What rabbit holes of trivia and seemingly-meaningless data have led you to great new writing ideas? 
  • What questions is your latest writing work trying to answer? How is your writing an act of curiosity?
  • When was the last time you looked at the sky? What did you see? Go look at the sky now and write about what you do see, don’t see, and what you wish you’d see. Ask a question about the sky. 

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