Google: sci-fi dystopia or online oracle?

There’s an interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times today that compares Google to Kubrick’s HAL, advising us with artificial intelligence and access to limitless data, that is dependable – until it’s not. It’s true that we perceive much of our world through a lens that Google creates – it offers an incredible amount of information that was previously inaccessible, but it sorts, fashions and presents it all in a particular way. And as much as this bottomless vault of data amazes and benefits us, we also find it chilling when we realise how much Google knows about us personally.

William Gibson phrases it beautifully:

Google is not ours. Which feels confusing, because we are its unpaid content-providers, in one way or another. We generate product for Google, our every search a minuscule contribution. Google is made of us, a sort of coral reef of human minds and their products.

So has Google turned our world into Bentham’s panopticon prison, changing our behaviours by our awareness of our constant surveillance? Should we have the right to start afresh after we besmirch our online identities via youthful social media oversharing? And where will Google take us next?

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