Almost everyone I know uses Google search engine, yeah the geek friends I have use duck duck go, but most everyone is so lazy not to change the default on their browser and for most of us its google. But I am going to ask you a question, how many times have you gone past the first page on a search? How many times do you even click on a link? According to this https://sparktoro.com/blog/less-than-half-of-google-searches-now-result-in-a-click/ – the answer is many don’t even click.
Now the article talks a lot about the google algorithm, and how the rankings work but I have a different worry. Think about how you have used google, how many times have you googled “weather” – and google responds with the weather for the next 10 days. What about a sports score, it ends up right there for you. In fact there are dozens of searches that google returns results for that you don’t need to click on the link. While this is an impressive feat, there might be something else happening.
Your brain starts to trust google results. The more you use it for these simple tasks that google can do well, the more you trust the results without questioning it, or checking other sources. I would call this the Linus Pauling effect. Side bar Linus Pauling was an American chemist who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry 2x. People though he was a genius so when he started claiming Vitamin C would cure everything from the common cold to cancer, people believed him. He actually died of cancer, but all of his claims were proved wrong. But people believed him cause he was so smart.
Well you start to believe google, well because you think it is so smart. But what if you ask it something that is not so black and white? What if you are not asking it what something that can be returned in a coded answer? Say you ask something like what happened before the big bang? or something like what tastes better thin crust pizza or thick crust pizza? Or what is the best way to lose weight? Or What to do when you are feeling depressed?
If you trust google so much, you might look at the first answer to these questions. Or click on the first link. At that point you might not realize either an ad or googles “formula” will be what you click on. Is this the best answer? Does google always have the right information? Are other search engines better?
Let start with google is a public company, their mission (as they put it) is to organize the worlds information. Of course being a company they are in business to make money. So they need to monetize searches. Now a computer may execute the search, but humans have written the algorithm that have multiple goals. First obviously, is to get a good answer for the user, but second to get a good response for the advertisers. Google has done a good job about managing these competing options. If thy were bad at it, then users would leave and go to bing or other engine.
Now the Post office is a company that fails at this. The two goals the post office has to deliver mail, and second to make money. In doing the second their biggest source of funding is junk mail. Well people hate mail because of the sheer amount of junk mail they get. Do you like google or the USPS as a brand? Thought so.
Let us go back to the original point. If you trust google, is that trust warranted and are they betraying your trust? As we said they are a business, and although we would hope companies have a moral compass, sometimes profit comes before the moral compass. It is on us, the users to know what is happening. We need to read the pay, and make a choice of which link is and “Ad” or a calculated bias and find the right answer. Or we need more users to setup alternate search engines, or even alternate browsers. Adam Grant once said more successful people use chrome, but now I think chrome is ubiquitous, its more like those who use brave etc. are the people who go out of their way.
But we need to challenge google, like we challenge anyone who acts in authority. We really don’t want to be in a situation where the Linus Pauling effect is taking over our lives.
This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free. I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them
This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book. With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path. I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content. I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip. I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.