As I traversed Germany this past week (more on that in my next blog entry), I came across an article in the Financial Times (May 23) with the title:
Google's goal to organise your daily life
I found the lead paragraph quite alarming:
"Google's ambition to maximise the personal information it holds on users is so great that the search engine envisages a day when it can tell people what jobs to take and how they might spend their days off."
Someday, according to Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, we could head over to Google for answers to the question: "What shall I do tomorrow?"
Does that sound good to you? Frankly, I find it a bit terrifying.
My feeling is that one of the biggest problems facing humanity today is that so many people have abandoned critical, self-aware thinking. Instead, they absorb hours of high-bandwidth programming in the form of ads, sponsored links, pop-ups, and brand-saturated television and movies. They rely on the narrowest sources of information conceivable to "educate" them about what is going on in the world (and they are getting narrower and more focused and directed all the time).
And they, we, all of us, are completely overwhelmed by data. We have more "information" available to us than ever before, but it is not making us better-informed or more sophisticated in our thinking. Instead, we act more and more like sheep, being led about with gentle prodding and the occasional nip at our heels. We voluntarily give up our privacy in the form of personal information, in search of a "free" search engine or a "free" video or a "great deal" on another electronic gadget.
Every step along the way, we come closer and closer to the ideal world -- for corporations and marketers, that is. A world in which our every move is closely tracked (voluntarily) and our every purchase is driven by, virtually determined by, tightly-beamed messages that enter our brains through ever "richer" formats (amazing graphics, extraordinary resolution, fantastic sound) that are impossible to ignore (we are wired that way).
And so at some point, when we need to decide what our next job should be, we will ask Google what we should do. Hell, by that time, Google will probably wake us up at 7 AM Monday morning and tell us: "You are dissatisfied with your job. It's time to move on. And Coca Cola is offering some fantastic positions for people just like you!"
Then opt out from the Eyeball Economy: Don't click on any sponsored links. Don't click on pop-ups. Don't give up any personal information and take every opportunity to turn off a company's gathering of your data. Seek out varied sources of information (check out thenation.com - that should give you a different perspective on life and politics in the US and around the world).
AND TURN OFF THE TELEVISION! Don't watch commercial TV. I think that television is much too powerful, compelling and addictive -- we are hard-wired genetically to respond to and be drawn to human voices speaking to us, to react to moving images that closely resemble the real world. We really can't turn away from the tube once it is blaring into our faces. Best to stay away.
Instead, go out and do something instead: exercise, walk around the nearest park, visit your public library (one of the most precious resources any free society has to offer and support), hang out with friends, play board games, discuss politics instead of sports and weather (ask yourselves: why did we, the citizens of the "greatest democracy on earth" let George Bush steal two presidential elections - Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004? That should be good for an hour of two of animated talk).
So much to do, so little time to watch.