A complex beast
The human brain is an amazing organ, one we know so much about, yet there is still so much we do not understand. The world's best neuro surgeons will tell you with authority which part of the brain is used for creativity, which is used for logic and the part that stores our long term memories. Yet they still cannot tell us where our consciousness resides. The brain and the mind intrigues me and they will be the fosus of this post.
Since time immorial humans have relied on each another to recall the minutiae of our daily lives. More recently we have become reliant on “the cloud” and this is changing how we perceive and remember everything we encounter in our daily lives.
Let's first explore how things were before the age of the Internet. Rather than a single world wide web, we had a huge number of smaller local webs. These webs were not made up of switches and routers however, they were made up of individuals minds, a collective of shared knowledge between social groups.
Smaller groups like husband and wife units, extended families, neighbourhoods or engineering departments all operated on a sharing model. Typically one person didnt know everything, instead it was shared model of distributed information between people. Using the extended family model as an example, I might be the guy people come to for advice about computers and sport, my brother the go to guy for motoring advise, any financial questions would go to my wife and my sister could advise on all things health and fitness. These social and societal constructs formed the bedrock of human knowledge for centuries. In some societies or villages, they had elders who had seen it all before - their cumulative life experiences gave them more rounded insights usually, and people came to them for advise.
This shared model meant we all knew something about something and that knowledge had a value among our peers. With the advent of the internet and search engines like Google, we now think that we know everything about everything, whereas the reality is we increasingly know very little about everything. Many believe they know everything, as they can reach to their smart phone or say "Hey Google" and pops an answer. I say an answer, rather than the answer, as who is to say everything is 100% truthful. Can large internet companies be economical with the truth?
Can we believe Google fully?
A recent study by Stone Temple, a well known analyst, reveals that Google's search engine answered 74.3% of 5,000 questions, and on those answers it had a 97.4% accuracy rate.
On the face of it, that sounds very good. What would worry me is the 2.6%. That's fine if the misinformation is about the number of matches Arsenal FC won in 1998, but is much more worrying if it relates to presidential elections or referendums. We need only look at the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal to understand the power of data and the very real weapon it has become.
The first thing to ask is
Is Google trustworthy?
Well i base trustworthiness on past perceptions and behaviours when it comes to apprasing people's trust worthiness in my daily life, so let's apply that to Google.
Do you remember the time before Google maps? Well someone came up with the idea and over time it was built and developed using aerial photographs and cars/vans that drove around every high road and by road to produce the images you see today when you click on streetview. Ok, so far so good. But did you know that while driving around every corner of the world, these Google vehicles were also hoovering up unwarranted data?
That's right. Their rigs that were set up in the back of the vans were also equiped to collect data from user Wi-Fi networks. Google admitted that they did collect unencrypted data sent using open Wi-Fi networks while it was collecting the data it needed to make a map without using GPS. You see network security was not as prevalent back then and they collected hige swaths of data and this was at a time when few others realised that data was 21st century gold. Do they sound trustworthy to you? Would you let them babysit your kids?
There are many other examples which you can find by ironically searching on Google, but i want to get back to the theme of this post now.
What happens to our brains?
There is a tendency to distribute information through face-to-face interactions in which our human mind represented the ultimate form of information storage. That ship has now sailed and we have new competition as computers proliferate in the form of smart phones
tablets and digital assistants. With the development of the Internet, our brains have been reduced from the role of alpha to an also-ran.
Now that we've invited Siri and Alexa into our social groups the dynamic changes. We now routinely off-load memories to “the cloud” just as readily as we would to a family member or friend. Today almost all information across myriad areas are at the tip of our fingers via an Internet search. Most worrying of all is the fact that the Internet is taking the place not just of other people as external sources of our collective memory but also of our own individual cognitive abilities. That last bit scares me the most and it is something we need to cognisant of as individuals, societies and people.
The Internet is a tool of huge importance and much good has come and can come from it in the future. However we must ensure it does not eliminate the need for friends and colleagues with whom to share information. We should refer to it at times, not rely upon it as much as we have started to.
Communities like we have here on Hive are a perfect example of what communities, shared ideas and collaboration can do which are positive and fruitful. We lean on one another and share our stories, experiences and grow together, enabled by the world wide web. So, let Google and digital assistants enable you, don't let them replace your own knowledge bank and sense of self. I'll finish with this qoute.
Lyall Watson said of the human brain:
If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn't.
I think that sums it up perfectly. Mind yourself, and mind your brain and remember your brain needs a work out too and that does not involve saying the words Hey Google!
Thanks a lot for stopping by
The images used are not mine, and i credit the sites below where I found them - let me know if you want any of them removed