Thursday, November 15, 2012

Riddle Me This, Google

British scientists appear to have puzzled out the famous head scratcher: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Research points to the chicken, but I've got a more pressing conundrum to consider: Is my memory slipping because I rely on Google fifty times a day, or do I rely on Google because my memory's slipping?

Whether you're twenty or seventy, you've wondered the same thing. Once upon a time, we accepted knowledge limbo: the uneasy minutes, hours, even days before we remembered the right answer or got our hands on an encyclopedia, tracked down a know-it-all friend, or buttonholed a source. Nowadays, we get skittish if our laptop, phone, or tablet doesn't give us a response within seconds.

Yet I fear our reliance on electronics makes us less self-reliant. If we gave ourselves a couple of minutes, the capital of Norway might bubble up from our memory, along with the formula for circumference, and the name of the group that sang The Power of Love in the 80's.

Alas, we don't have the luxury of time. Work deadlines come lightning fast because we're expected to use every digital shortcut at our disposal.

Search engines are more pleasant to work with than some people. They never rear back and demand, "Why do you want to know?" They never say, "Every fifth grader knows that."

My parents had a set of encyclopedias that I, the eldest, used from elementary school until college. My youngest sister, eight years my junior, used the same set and no teacher complained her information was outdated. Today, search engines ferret out the latest updates, developments, and complications.

When power went out in the northeast due Hurricane Sandy, Google, Bing and Yahoo were available, but the tools people use to connect with them may have been out of juice. Who or what settled the disputes that came up during board games by flashlight: Is "ruana" really a word? That play's not legal!

Did people hunt for dictionaries and a dusty copy of rules of bridge, or did the opinion of the loudest person in the room prevail? I'm guessing the game players swore they'd never again take a search engine for granted.

To write this blog post, I asked Google four questions—well, three, really. I forgot one answer and had to Google it again. Wouldn't you know the answer to one question sent my thoughts on a different direction than I originally planned.

I count on search engines—and no one has to remind me to use them. Indeed, my fingers start typing before my brain has formulated most questions.

The quick answers I get give me time to ponder other, weighty matters: Do my eyelashes look sparse because of the mascara I glop onto them, or do I glop on mascara because my eyelashes look sparse?

Your turn: Name one of the last four things you typed into a search engine. Did you get the answer you expected?


Marcy Kennedy said...

The last things I typed into the search engine (that I can remember!) was "how to tell the sex of an 8-week-old kitten." I plucked one out of the bushes near our house, and it's been a while since I've had to figure out if a kitten was male or female. We needed to know if we had a boy or a girl :)

Kassandra Lamb said...

Uh, I can only remember the last two things :)

"St. Augustine, FL" (setting of the book I'm writing at the moment).

And "serial killers" (don't ask!)

Fun post, Pat!

Jennette Marie Powell said...

"How to make a bulleted list with extjs" - techie work stuff. :) Also, "how to tell if my turtle is going to lay eggs." (Answer: no; she just decided to spazz out at 4am.) My searches are nothing if not varied. :D

Coleen Patrick said...

I googled to find out what a flare gun looks like. :)
It was writing research, but now you've got me thinking whether or not I think before I Google. I know its my first line of defense when my memory isn't quick. But I should try to stretch the old gray matter some.

Sarah Andre said...

If Google didn't have a list of my history I would've been unable to remember the last 4 things I Googled!

Global Entry Requirements
Habitat for Humanity Store Address
Early Voting Locations Houston
Cosmopolitan Drink Ingredients

Maybe you should have asked for the weirdest stuff we've ever Googled, LOL! "Female murderers using a knife as a weapon."

Lynette M Burrows said...

I've pondered some of the same questions that you have, Pat. The last four things I googled?
my scroll bar in safari disappeared
oral history, veterans
lies people tell

And, uh, when I looked at my google history, i thought, oh, yeah I was working on something about lies . . . and off I went. Ten minutes later, I remembered I hadn't finished this comment. LOL! Believe it or not, I did the same thing when I used the library's card catalog and encyclopedias. Thanks for a great post, Pat.

Hmm, your captcha that I have to complete ends in the letters A-D-D. Think it's trying to tell me something? :D

Lark Howard said...

Love it, Pat. I check info and settle arguments all the time on my iPhone as well as my laptop.

Last searches:

Channing Tatum (images)
Harris County Property Tax Records
Little Women movies
Chris Hemsworth

Gee, that's embarrassing--two young hunks out of 4 searches--although the Chris Hemsworth search was for my Tuesday blog post. Really.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Marcy, I want to know all about the kitten. Male or female? Was the mama cat feral? How did the kitten take to life indoors? How he/she doing now?

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Kassandra,
You wouldn't be a mystery writer if you didn't Google "serial killers" from time to time. I happen to know you're planning a Kate Huntington novella set in St. Augustine. Happy researching!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Jennette,
Your searches are VERY varied. If you decided to have an affair with the head of the CIA, you'd baffle the FBI agents assigned to your digital trail.

I hope the turtle's better.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Haha, Coleen. I think before I Google, but that thought consists of, "Better Google this."

Flare guns, huh?

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Sarah,
Have you been serving Cosmopolitans to Habitat for Humanity volunteers? I know a pretty drink would revive me at the end of a hard day of taping sheetrock or hammering roof shingles.

As for Googling "Female murderers using a knife as a weapon," let's just say I'm glad the FBI doesn't have a reason to investigate you, Kassandra, or Jennette. (I haven't looked up flare guns yet, so I don't know if Coleen would be safe from prying eyes.)

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

I look forward to a blog post about lying liars, Lynette. As for the captcha, it probably was meant for me. Um, what were we talking about?

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Lark,
Research is grueling, but we do what we have to do, right?

I could see Chris Hemsworth as a mild-mannered tax assessor-turned super hero. Are you plotting a new story?

Louise Behiel said...

I use google so often, it's mind boggling when i think about it. and I keep learning new things google will tell me. it's amazing.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Me, too, Louise!