Google has archived all your past searches. View at your own risk.
It’s fair to say that Google has completely revolutionised life in the 21st century. It has become synonymous with knowledge and information. I would even go so far as to say that Google is the internet. Within the space of an hour you can look up the correct spelling of
halliuyah haleljujah hallelujah, or what the world’s grossest cheese is (carsu marzu). In half a second you can confirm your suspicions that it was your nemesis Paul Giamatti in Dr. Dolittle. Or, if you’re so inclined, you can research and write that essay that you’ve been avoiding for days.
Google’s hold on the world’s data is the stuff of nightmares. The web giant knows everything about you: who you know, where you’ve been, and what songs you sing along to in the shower (probably). Perhaps most frightening of all, a UK tech blog recently discovered that Google added a feature that allows you to download your entire search history. If you have a Google account, go to your search history page. Click on the gearbox and then Create Archive. All that’s left to do is lay awake at night with the horrors of Past You and their adventures with Google burned into your memory.
Aside from the sheer volume of misspellings and inquiries about the guy who plays Robb Stark, I was astounded to find how dependent I am on Google. Going through my archive was like looking into my brain, and finding an agoraphobic hypochondriac with a poor grasp of English. Almost every thought and query I have goes straight from my brain into Google. It’s my dictionary, my secretary, and that guy who gives boxers refreshments while they sit in the corner of the boxing ring. What’s that guy called? Let me Google it.
Ahh, cornerman. Google is my cornerman, handing me Evian, giving me cold hard facts and sick Yo Momma jokes while I fight strangers on the internet over the big issues. Google is essentially an external hard drive of information that I don’t have space for in my human brain. Mostly because I use all my brainpower for daydreaming up ways I can become best friends with Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer.
Researchers have suggested that this new fan-dangled tech-googly has replaced what is called transactive memory—basically collective memory between groups of people. In one study, researchers found that the internet has become our primary source of external or transactive memory. When faced with a difficult problem, participants first think of how they are going to search for it. When people are expecting to be able to use Google to find the information, they have “lower rates of recall” of the information. This is basically our mushy grey matter’s way of adapting to the technology-heavy environment of the 21st century. We’re pretty much one step away from fully merging with technology to become a hybrid human race. Don’t quote me on that.
But are we better off being dependent on the internet? Are the days of humanity numbered? The catch-cry of the common technophobe is that technology is making us dumb! The internet is why we’re so mean and shallow and the Horsemen of the Apocalypse are named Kim, Khloe and Kourtney!
Well, my answer is that it doesn’t take much googling to realise that we humans have always been a bit mean and shallow. For example, try reading any history book. Technophobes are not a new thing either. The telephone was seen as unnecessary and unnatural, while the introduction of the printing press and even books were seen to make men “less studious”. It may seem ridiculous now, but technological advances have always brought along this kind of moral panic. Just as books are seen as outdated, the internet will no doubt be a dying media one day.
What will never die, however, is my shame over googling “how to boil eggs”. Twice.