Friday, August 15, 2008

Search Me

I ran into an old friend in Utah a few days ago.

He handed me his card, which read "THINKOLOGIST". "Big money in that," I asked?

He laughed and introduced me to a guy who had created a digital vest. It had monograms that were sensors that controlled an Ipod and phone. He could listen to music and answer his cell phone by touching his vest in the correct places. I think the monograms spelled "geek" but I'm not sure...It could have been "dork".

As I was wishing him luck, he told me that he had written a search engine, and before he could fill me in my next appointment wandered up and I lost my thinkologist friend in the hubub of the convention center.

Search engines are big.

Any number of them have been written, used, and tossed aside when they were replaced by faster or more accurate search engines. It takes money to get them going and money to keep them going, what with the server farms that house the information and software that you and I use every time we "google" something. I personally have used Google exclusively since the first time I tried it. It was different, somehow...and it was really fast. Rather than a plain "look up" search, such as Yahoo, it mathematically weighted web information and I got what I wanted almost every time, particularly after I learned how to use the logic instructions to tailor my search. This is good...and this is bad!

The good thing is that I get what I want. The bad thing is that 90% of all searches are performed by three engines,, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. This is dangerous in the long run, much like the fact that our news is delivered by only a few very large corporations which at one time were noble and served the ideals of democracy, but now serve the ideals of corporate profits.

Corporate News outlets make decisions every minute that control what we learn. Do they challenge an obvious bit of slanted information or let it go because it helps a particular corporation friendly politician? If you've watched Fox News lately and then seen the same news item interpreted by another news outlet, you can see the most egregious example of this in our time. In a Democracy, voters must have accurate information in order to make the decisions required of an electorate. Control the information and you control the elections and the ability of a government to manipulate its people. How else can you explain the obviously false opinion being formed by 68% of Americans that Saddam had something to do with 9-11 in the run up to the Iraq war?

The antidote to bad news is good information and regulation of news outlets. At the moment, regulation is out. News media have been deregulated to the point that they now have monopolies and now support a particular political party that continues to lie to the very people who are supposed to own the airwaves that carry the lies. Monopolies, like corporations, are essentially incapable of being altruistic. They serve themselves by intent... others only by accident. That leaves us to search for good information all on our own.

And that brings us back to search engines. what you find when you search for something can be easily controlled by your search engine. I trust Google at this point and maybe Yahoo, to some lessor degree. Sorry, but I don't trust Microsoft. At some point, Google and the others could be faced with a monumental decision involving monumental profits versus the good of my Country. All of the major news outlets have made these decisions in favor of their own pockets, with Fox being the worst offender. Now, CNN/HNN is vying for second, with the insipid Glen Beck as the most obvious symptom. If the few major players in media can fall victim to the corporate monopoly disease, so can search engines.

When we ask a question, do we want the answer to be tailored to serve those in power? No way! The most dangerous people on this planet, the ones with the most power to harm me and my family, are the people in control of my government. This is why Net Neutrality is such a big deal and why John McCain is disqualified, extremely unqualified in fact, from being able to lead my country. He doesn't get it. Actually, he doesn't have a clue. A man who has never sent an email has an understanding of the issues involved with what will be the dominant avenue of human communication and commerce somewhere on the order of a housefly.

Enter the people who have done more to provide accurate information than anyone in history, and as a result, are most hated by conservative forces...Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is an open source online encyclopedia. The information and articles it contains are written and fact checked by you and me, and everybody else on the planet with internet access. Try to put false information on Wikipedia and get banned. It is a self enforcing reverence for truth, fact, and accuracy that makes Wikipedia the most valuable online tool ever conceived. Now JImmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia has announced his plan to create Wiki Search.

Nobody can predict how well this project will turn out but I am very optimistic. If nothing else, it will keep Google on its most honest toes.

I suspect Wiki Search will be immediately banned in China.



1 comment:

  1. BB on the clinch5:16 PM

    Hello Steve, I'm enjoying reading all you have to say. I just recently found you through Roane View which I also just found today by doing a google image search for the one and only Mayor/ Commissioner Troy Beets.
    I live in town, and am interested in getting a feel for how this wonderful, beautiful, quite and now becoming quite imfamous little county works behind the scenes.