“They Want Google to Tell Them What They Should be Doing”
Eric Schmidt, the Chairman of Google in a recent interview said the following:
“I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions.
They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.”
Renowned science fiction writer William Gibson has tried to explore this idea in a recent New York Times op-ed piece, “Google’s Earth”. Gibson takes a good hard look at the role that Google has assumed in our lives, and asks some tough questions about the implications for who we are becoming as people, at this point in time.
In discussing the growing capacity of Google to assist, or even replace human decision-making, Gibson observes:
“We never imagined that artificial intelligence would be like this. We imagined discrete entities. Genies…. Cyberspace, not so long ago, was a specific elsewhere, one we visited periodically, peering into it from the familiar physical world. Now cyberspace has everted. Turned itself inside out. Colonized the physical. Making Google a central and evolving structural unit not only of the architecture of cyberspace, but of the world. This is the sort of thing that empires and nation-states did, before. But empires and nation-states weren’t organs of global human perception. They had their many eyes, certainly, but they didn’t constitute a single multiplex eye for the entire human species.”
So Google is pervading more and more aspects of our lives. But do we actually want Google to tell us what to do? To take our previous behaviour, and to extrapolate from that, and so to indicate to us, on the basis of artificial intelligence and algorithms, what it is that we should do next, according to Google?
It seems apparent that the technology to do this is going to be more and more within reach for Google in the not-too-distant future. Is it what we really want?
Perhaps we do want Google to make some choices for us. For instance, Google might greatly assist me if it would simplify certain types of choices about acquiring consumer goods — the best new smartphone for me to acquire, perhaps. But do we want Google to tell us what we should be doing when it comes to the fundamental choices of our lives? Who we love, for instance? Or what we really value and strive for in our lives?
How do we know that the choices which I have made in the past are really my authentic choices? Perhaps the choice which is authentically mine — this time, now — is quite different from and quite inconsistent with the choices I might have made in the past?
This whole discussion is much bigger, really, than Google. It takes us right into questions about what it is that makes us fundamentally human. And into the question of whether, in the process of our making choices, there is something indefinable and indescribable that is fundamental to our unique identity. Jung held that there was such a mystery at the heart of our human uniqueness, and that is the reality that he called the Self. It is the process of coming into contact with that reality that forms the basis of Jungian analysis, and of any case studies that is founded on principles of depth psychology.
I’d welcome your comments on this post, and on the importance of the subjective experience of free decision-making in relation to our identity. Do you feel that it matters, is fundamental to your identity as a unique human, or not?
My best wishes for your unique personal journey towards wholeness,
Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst
© 2010 Brian Collinson