Google search, context and intent
In the information age ignorance is no longer an excuse but knowledge does not necessarily make us smarter or wiser. Search has changed from something we did on the web when we wanted to check out some piece of information to take center stage in our daily lives.

Predictably its impact upon us is not just neurobiological and psychosocial but also behavioral. Like everything else now search is part of the signals we send around us and frequently used to judge our intent. When Michele Catalano’s home was kinda raided by law enforcement officers the culprit behind it was an overzealous employer who had found the terms “backpack” and “pressure cooker” (usually the kind of thing you might associate with a camping trip) in the search history of her husband’s laptop. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and its very special brand of paranoia that context now lent a less innocent interpretation to the intent behind the search. 

Similarly the tragedy when Atlanta man, Ross Harris, lost his son to hyperthermia, apparently forgetting him locked up in his SUV on a very hot day, while he went to work, turned into something entirely different when his search history revealed he’d “…visited a Reddit page called "child-free" and read four articles, Stoddard said. He also allegedly searched how to survive in prison.” and had repeatedly watched “…a sort of homemade public service announcement in which a veterinarian demonstrates on video the dangers of leaving someone or something inside a hot car.”

Search Reveals Stupid (and Criminal) Intent

As a page on eight bizarre cases where internet search was used as evidence shows, search has now become a little of Pandora’s box releasing upon the world as much of our stupidity and thoughtlessness as our ability to use it to further empower ourselves. 

Behind it all is our attempts to come to grips with a new technology that empowers us as much as it potentially arms those who might want to watch us. The wrangle between Google and the NSA aside what all this really reveals is that search is a ubiquitous technology. It is a utility we use at many different parts of our lives on a daily basis.

It is fast becoming key to being able to predict who we are and what we will do through sentiment or opinion mining and, as we become more immersed in the digital environment, it will become ever more critical to how we organize not just our days but our thoughts.

In a TED Talk Google’s Ray Kurzweil explained how search may be leading us to a fully-integrated hybrid thinking model:


Given how I find it difficult, these days, to do much writing without being able to use Google search to double-check dates and facts and get opinions, I would say that hybrid thinking is already what we do. Full, neural integration at a nano-molecular level like that envisaged by Kurzweil will only formalize it. 

There is no denying now that Google’s search is becoming deeply integrated in the context and intent of our daily lives. 


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