Will Everyman Know Everything? Or Need to Bother?

Thanks much to Peder who provided me a link to this blogpost from March 2006 in which the author discusses Google’s plans for the future, as revealed by an 2006 Analyst’s Day powerpoint prepared by Google with some attached notes that weren’t for public consumption.  The notes to slides 20 and 19 say (respectively) that Google plans to “get all the world’s information, not just some” and store it for use “in a world with infinite storage, bandwidth, and CPU power.”

The story behind the notes is itself interesting because the notes were from some presentations that were not intended for the public and promted Google to file an 8-K with the SEC formally disclosing some of the information.

For me, and probably no one else, the really interesting thing about Google’s blueprint lies in its potential parralels to the fabled Last Man to Know Everthing, whose potential identity has been a game in the scientific community for a long time.  Of course, no one ever knew everything, but it is usually identifed as “everything worth knowing” or all there was to know in whatever culture was seemingly ascendent at a particular time in history.  As Dennis Mangan says in his post, “The idea behind it assumes that at some point in history, human knowledge became so broad that no one person could hope to be an expert in more than a few areas.”

In a world where Google’s blueprint becomes reality, will everyman know everything?  In a world where “all the world’s information, not just some” is available for instantaneous recall and use because this new world has “infinite storage, bandwidth, and CPU power,” will it really be worth knowing anything?  Will everyone be an expert at will?  Will Google’s realized vision change what we mean by knowing, how we experience knowing, or how hard it will be to actually know something in the (relatively) unmediated tactile sense? 

Chase, is it fair to relate this to the concepts of presentation and represenation in aesthetics that we have discussed before?  That is as a child in Google’s world will the world think it better that I rely upon the informational representation of, say, a giraffe, rather than going to see one at the zoo or in its natural habitat (forms of presentation)?  This possibility surely isn’t new, but in a world with such full and easy access to mediated information, why bother to seek the immediate? Perhaps there are trends in the theatre that parallel this trajectory?

I know all three of you out there are saying, “Huh?  What is he talking about?”  I have no idea.   If you think the above is a little crazy, though, here’s how it might tie into being a pastor (even now in certain high-tech contexts).

Information is an increasingly valuable commodity and Google’s business model seems to seek a form of corporate omniscience, much of which is passed through to the user.  This form of omniscience (control over vast amounts of information) gives people a sense of omnipotence — control over information is very much related to power.  (Ask Google, if you want confirmation of that.)

Control over information is a relatively new manifiestation of the ways that mankind can be the captain of its fate and the master of its own soul.  Our preaching and teaching may increasingly need to address the perceived loss of mystery and power in God that information control causes, and the corresponding lie of ultimate power over one’s fate and soul.  It’s not a new story, but a new representation of an old one.  Fortunately, humans still have death to keep a limit on this until Christ comes and death is destroyed for good. 


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