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Just a search engine or a digital altar for the Google cult?


This question has long been haunting me: "What the heck are you guys googling for day and night?"

I, too, do a web search or two everyday. But unlike most of you, I do some thinking before and after a search because I know I can't substitute a search engine for my own brain.

It's been said people are primarily looking for factual information to keep up with the quickly changing world. But I don't believe in the myth because the types of factual information accessible on the web are quite limited.

To be more specific, there are:

● weather reports,
● geographical information, e.g. how to get to one's destination, the distance and time difference between two places,
● micro-history, e.g. who wrote a particular book or musical piece, what his bio and quotations are like,
● schedules and results of sporting events and other "circenses,"
● laws and regulations,
● descriptions of administrative and judicial systems,
● anatomical data, and
● linguistic information, e.g. definitions, synonyms, antonyms and etymologies of words.

I can't think of any other kind of factual information that doesn't fall on these categories.

One case in point here is the same old semantic question about the difference between "fact" and "truth." My way of distinguishing the two words goes like this:

"A fact is truthful only when you know the question while a truth is factual only when you know the answer."

I haven't found a single answer any better than mine in those Q&A communities.

And don't tell me news stories, comments by pundits and bloggers, macro-history, scientific theories and hypotheses, safety standards established based on them, and statistical reports are factual. I'm not talking about the known fact that these types of information are almost always distorted. Distorted or not, they are all nonfactual types of information.

For instance, if you are one of those empty-headed Japan watchers in the U.S., you did a web search in late December using such keywords as "abe yasukuni shrine." Then you learned that Japan's prime minister had visited the shrine where the war criminals are enshrined along with the war-dead and for that he was criticized by China, South Korea and even the United States. It's hard to explain but billions of people all over the world visited billions of different places on December 26, 2013. It's neither a fact nor truth until the sender of the information tells those on the receiving end exactly why he thought this event was particularly report-worthy.

Then what about statistics? It is true statistical data such as gross domestic product and government's debt of a nation are not always fabricated. But so what? It's a known fact that "shadow economy" and "shadow banking" are not negligibly small not only in Greece and China but also in the rest of the world. Take gross domestic product of the United Kingdom for example. Wikipedia says it stood at 2.49 trillion in 2013 in terms of US$. This is not a fact because as THE TIMES recently reported, it would add at least US$16 billion if you included the illegal activities of prostitutes and drug dealers. And needless to say the British daily just made it up. How can you estimate the size of underground activities?

And to begin with, who decided GDP is the primary indicator of nation's health and vigor? As anyone who has learned the essence of the Luca Pacioli system can tell, any figure arbitrarily singled out from among tons of data means absolutely nothing when the total picture of a system is at issue.

The same can be said of the promotional material of a company you scrutinize when making a purchase decision.

This time I thought numerical data would give me some clue to what underlies the puzzling behaviors of netizens. And it did. Take a look at the following table.

Description Figures for 2013
in Million except for F
A Annual Number of Google Searches 2,161,530 Google Annual Search Statistics
B Daily Average of Above 5,922 Ditto
C Daily Average of Total Web Searches 8,839 Google's share in search engine market (Wikipedia)
D World Population 7,100 Wikipedia
E Internet Users 2,769 Internet Penetration Rate (Wikipedia)
F Average Number of Searches per Day 3.2 C divided by E

I was a seasoned senior manager who worked on financial matters for more than 40 years. So I never take any unaudited figure at face value. The above figure F already seems to be on the high side when taking into account the obvious fact that there's not much of factual information available on the web. Yet I suspect these figures have been largely understated, intentionally or not.

For one thing they didn't count you when you clicked a bookmark, or used a direct link, to know, say, the weather forecast of the day. Another factor of the obvious understatement is the known fact that Google makes it a rule to use the ill-defined unit of traffic measurement the IFABC calls UU (Unique User.) If you come back to your browser within the same session or on the same day with the same IP address and auxiliary identifier, Google tends to ignore the second search onwards. These are why I suspect the Annual Number of Google Searches here is largely understated.

At the end of the time-consuming exercise, I realized there's no reliable per-capita number given on the web. But in the absence of unambiguous data, I could tentatively conclude that I was right in assuming the average netizen is seeking something other than factual information most of the time. Put it simply, he is seeking what he thinks is truth because of his tendency to constantly mix up fact and truth.

As I observe, a vast majority of people on both sides of the Pacific, and in the rest of the world to a lesser degree, have been indoctrinated, since their childhood, into believing a funny idea that seeking truth with eunuch's asceticism is what their life should be all about. To that end they rely on a false assumption that they can find the correct answer just by keying in casual search words because more specific questions have been planted beforehand by someone else. Small wonder these change-disabled people always end up with inertia-friendly and inactionable truth.

This explains their compulsive behavior but still leaves us wondering how they can find truth when it's something each individual should create, or re-create, on his own.

The fact of the matter is that truth isn't searchable on the web or anywhere else. On the one hand if you already know the answer, there's no point in seeking it, and on the other if you don't, you are looking for an answer without knowing what question to ask. How can you tell what search string to use to look for something that is yet to be known or even created?

For their insatiable quest for fake truth, they are unwittingly paying a prohibitively high price. In doing so they have chosen to subordinate themselves to the battalions of web spiders, i.e. search robots, unleashed by the likes of Google. To me these people look like a big school of fish being driven into a huge Net by giga-tons of lures spread all over the World Wide Web.

Here's a deliberate statement that summarizes all this:

Seek not truth. Make it chase after you, instead.

Although this is nothing more than a commonsense argument, most of you truth-seeking, crisis-mongering, doomsaying folks will have great difficulty swallowing my heretical view. And that is essentially why my unpopular website is getting further un-optimized by these SEO (Search Engine Optimization) companies who are affiliated with the Google Cult in one way or the other.

POSTSCRIPT 1: In this post I've focused on the digital altar. But needless to say, there are also other mediums such as books and newspapers whose role to those low-tech cultists is essentially the same as that of the necromancer.

POSTSCRIPT 2:I'm afraid Westerners think my altar analogy is an exaggeration. But it is not. There is a subtle difference in attitude between Western netizens and their Japanese counterparts. While Christians are susceptible to addiction to truth, Shintoists, or fake Buddhists, tend to become addicted to the search engine itself because of their long tradition of "technology fetishism" coupled with blind admiration of Western ideas. But the bottomline is the same; they are equally indoctrinated to remain fixed with the past. In that respect TV commercials have symptomized the Japanese disease for more than six decades. People in marketing departments and copywriters have known it's 100-times more effective if consumer goods is named and described in "English," such as "Be-A-Doraibaa" for Mazda (to be pronounced in completely flat intonation) and that food stuff will make viewers salivate more than not when endorsed by a blue-eyed Gaijin. Believe it or not, foreigners other than Chinese and Koreans living in Japan account for a mere 0.6% of the total population. Now every second TV commercial tells the viewers how to make 検索 (Kensaku or a web search) for the product instead of giving a sales pitch directly. Now the entire population is into the Kensaku Karuto.

TO BE CONTINUED TO How I hit a gold vein in the Google junkyard at times ·

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Just a search engine or a digital altar for the Google cult? | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Is it just a serach engine or a digital altar?
Authored by: samwidge on Sunday, March 02 2014 @ 05:05 PM JST
I have no trouble accepting your " heretical view."

You remember the invention of the transistor. The theory was wrong but it worked. Each new theory was tried and reworked but each time something happened to disprove something about each new theory.

Nobody stops trying to understand but everybody fails. There is something very special about those failures that make life worthwhile. In fact, if you and I could be correct in all things at all times there would be no point in living.

As for me, I intend to continue making the best failures that I can.
Is it just a serach engine or a digital altar?
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Sunday, March 02 2014 @ 06:49 PM JST

Your comment was appreciated very much here.

Now a follow-up piece is on its way, in which I will discuss Neo Yamada (11-year-old jazz organist,) Mamoru Samuragochi (the person TIME magazine dubbed "Japanese Beethoven,") and Haruko Obokata (the cell biologist who claims to have discovered Stimulus-Triggered Acquisition of Pluripotency cells).

I look forward to hearing from you again when it's uploaded.

Is it just a search engine or a digital altar?
Authored by: Diogenes on Monday, March 03 2014 @ 07:45 PM JST
Sometimes, I get synchronicities as Carl Jung defined them—meaningful coincidences. I'm reading Professor Emeritus Eric Larson's latest book: “The Decline and Fall of the American Nation.” This is a book of cynical fiction, using a fictitious university named Actaeon. Sometimes, it's simply easier to say what you want to say through the vehicle of fiction.

Yesterday, on page 40, underneath the title: Preface, I read:

“You can't pray a lie—I found that out.” --Huck Finn

On page 70, I found this today.

6/20/06 5:52 AM (Sun.):
The truth is this: from a time very early on, thinking became intolerable at Actaeon.

Thinking, after all, led to the truth. And the truth—a truth of cold, heat, screaming, airlessness, disease, stench, bullets, death threats, lassitude, despair—this truth, quickly enough indeed, revealed itself to be intolerable. (He's talking about experiences he had while teaching at Actaeon i.e. no exhaust fans in the mens restrooms, so the stench was horrible.)

Some famous persons had this to say about truth and lies.

Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn in 1974 admonished his countrymen:
"Live without lies!" This applies equally to the West. The Truth in our time is in no way self-evident. Most official facts about communism are not true. Solzhenitsyn emphasized: "In our country the lie has become not just a moral category, but a pillar of the state."

Francis Bacon so well put it, "Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority."

And you add: “The only way to deal with truth is to make it chase after you, instead.” This reminds me of a quote by the Caliph Ali: “That which you are seeking is seeking after thee. Therefore, be at rest from seeking after it.” I think it's safe to assume that he was referring to Allah.

There's the truth that everything that exists will die, disappear, dissolve, explode in fire, vanish forever. But even if the world, the universe, becomes a vast nothingness, what the Chinese call mu (虚无 I hope I got this right.), there is also a way to escape this fate. That is also a truth, and it's the only truth worth seeking. It is said that when the student is ready, the master will appear. It seems that I'm ready.
Is it just a search engine or a digital altar?
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Monday, March 03 2014 @ 09:51 PM JST

You mention synchronicities. It’s very intriguing because what you are doing right now (reading “The Decline and Fall of the American Nation”) 6,000 miles away from Tokyo and what I’m doing at my end (writing a post to follow up this one) can be a “meaningful coincidence.” In the follow-up piece which will be titled “Tips on how to hit a gold vein in the Google junkyard,” I will introduce the method I always use when hunting for treasure, instead of searching for truth. In my treasure-hunting exercise I depend more on “serendipity” than on preconceived search criteria. Of course here I’m not talking about superstitious ideas such as “telepathy.”

Since I haven’t had the opportunity to delve into Carl Jung before, I’ll study his theory after finishing the follow-up piece to find out if there are links between synchronicity and serendipity. As you may know, the idea of serendipity was derived from Plato’s epistemology although the Greek philosopher didn’t use the word.

On the other hand, your “truth” and my “treasure” are diagonally different concepts. You focus on “cold, heat, screaming, airlessness, disease, stench, bullets, death threats, lassitude, despair” while I’m inclined to stress man’s ability to counter them because we’ve already had more than enough of them. I’m not sure, but most probably I’ll be able to deepen my idea after familiarizing myself with Jung’s theory.