Human InterestUncategorized


Has it ever occurred to you that GOOGLE rules the “information world? Every piece of information, every fact, every historical occurrence, every quotation, really, almost anything you want to know about can be found on GOOGLE. GOOGLE has replaced the World Book Encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia Brittanica, and a large number of textbooks as the source of factual educational information. In fact, I would go so far as to say most reference books, textbooks, and other data sources have been substituted by information found by “Googling” a subject. 

When I was in grade school and high school, if I had to do a written report, the research was done using the expensive World Book encyclopedia set my parents bought for my brother and me. I used those reference books all the time. If I needed additional information, or a different perspective, I went to the library to see what other reference books said about the subject. Of course this was in the 1950’s, when personal computers, iPads, and the internet were visions of the future! 

In medical school, I had several textbooks nearly 1000 pages long. I used them all the time. The library in the medical science building, where our lectures and labs took place, housed thousands of textbooks and reference books, and in “the stacks” in the basement, I could read articles from every medical journal in existence at that time. These references were accessible 24/7. Libraries, reference books, and journals still exist today, but I wonder how frequently they are used. By Googling a subject, I can instantly learn what previously required a lot of effort to access. Many of those textbooks of the 60’s have been replaced by easily accessible online learning modules.

The information individuals learn today is determined by Google and the billions of websites to which it directs the reader. Google is a search engine. It is a software program that directs users to other websites that provide information the reader is seeking. The user enters key words or phrases that Google then uses to present the reader with websites that contain the information being sought. In most cases, thousands, or even millions, of websites are found on the subject. Google gives certain websites priority access (lists them first) when their information is deemed to be preferred. This is called search engine optimization. Google prioritizes certain websites for instant access.  

There are several other search engines on the web, but they don’t have the user profile enjoyed by Google. I’ve heard of, but never used, Bing, Ask, and Yahoo, and have never heard of Baidu or Yandex. These are some of Google’s competitors. Since Google is the gold standard, it’s the search engine most people use. 

Web browsers, on the other hand, are software programs that access the web and “fetch” or provide access to websites you are seeking. If you know what website you’re looking for, enter it in the search bar, and the browser will find it. Web browsers can function as search engines, too. Google’s web browser is called Chrome. Others are Firefox, Safari (Apple), Brave, Internet Explorer (Microsoft), and Opera. 

In 1996, two Stanford University grad students developed a search engine algorithm. This is the program that runs Google. Larry Page and Sergei Brin are credited with developing the software that makes Google work. Through complicated and confusing computer machinations, by inserting key words or phrases, users find the information they’re seeking. In 1998, Google became a real company. 

In 2004, Google became a public company. On August 19, 2004, an initial public stock offering (IPO) took place. Google raised $1.67 billion dollars by selling 19,605,052 shares of stock at $85/share. The “new” company was now worth $23 billion and many of Google’s employees were instant millionaires. Google has done nothing but grow ever since.

The societal influence of Google cannot be overlooked. It has become the source of information for every aspect of our lives, and Americans use it many times each day. Along with the amazing capacity to provide information comes the responsibility for honesty, accuracy, and impartiality. The information disseminated must be factual, accurate, and untainted by opinion and innuendo. Pertinent facts must not be omitted and embellishments or personal bias must be avoided. Google, and to be fair, other information sites, have not always provided information without some sense of purpose or an agenda. Our world, today, is a partisan world.  You’re either with us or you’re the enemy. There’s no middle ground. 

Americans are mostly honest, trusting people. They don’t like being lied to or being misled. For Google, and it’s ilk, to thrive they must be accurate and impartial. When you Google a subject you want the facts, not opinion or bias. You want to form your own opinion from the information you’ve uncovered.

What would happen if Google abused its power? What if it presented altered facts? What if you  found only one side of a story? What if historical information was written differently?  Suddenly, everything is seen differently. Suddenly, what you thought was the truth is not! The facts change, you change, society changes! You are influenced to accept values that differ from yours; to accept “facts” you know aren’t true. 

I know this sounds paranoid, and it probably is, but lying, dishonesty, and cynicism are pervasive today. We must have faith in our institutions and Google, et al. have become “institutions” in American society. They have to be accurate, authentic, and impartial. Those traits have to be part of the fabric of the people in charge of the “institution.” If they aren’t, the whole thing falls apart and incorrect “facts” are perpetuated. Trust erodes. 

Trust is a very important characteristic in this “information age.” Without honesty, accuracy, and impartiality trust can never be gained. Americans have lost trust in many of our long-standing agencies, offices, departments, and public establishments. Bias and double standards have caused distrust. It is of paramount importance that Google, and other such entities, keep the public trust by being accurate and unbiased. Some might say they have already reached that point with restrictions they have imposed. The potential for abuse is there, and we cannot let that happen. 

WilliamM.Gilkison MD

Related Articles


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button