Search Engine Dystopia

Search engines are what I focus on most as we’ve been exploring the utopian ideals that new technology brings about. The main, and most noble, ideal is the dream of free and fair access to knowledge for everyone. As this creepy MCI advertisement claims, with faster Internet connection, gender, race, and age will disappear! I’m unsure of the potential consequences for equal knowledge that quick Google searches will bring about, but I highly doubt we’ll all become blind to one another’s differences. Maybe more accepting, but that does not cause a fairly obvious trait someone possesses to disappear.
In my opinion, if no discernable difference between people is the goal of limitless knowledge, then that appears to be more of a dystopia than utopia. Our differences of interest and culture are what keep search engine results interesting and varied. If we all become “one mind” as the commercial says, we will lose all diversity of interest and opinion, which is the entire reason to use search engines in the first place. To find out what you don’t already know, and gain differing opinions. That would be more like the dystopian wasteland we’ve all read about in books, with brainwashed masses walking around incapable of individual thought.
More on the dystopian side is no matter how idealistic and pure the intentions of the internet were. It still causes an imbalance of power and knowledge. Phones, tablets, computers, and even internet access cost money, and some simply do not have the resources for this, thus they are mostly barred from this endless pool of knowledge. I mentioned in class there is always the option of a library card, which is usually free, and computer access is available. But, access is not unlimited in time or ability. If things did get out of control and dystopian, like in every recent young-adult fiction book ever, the government would harness control over the internet and make people pay extra money for faster access….oh wait…that did happen. But, in an actual dystopian novel, I imagine total and utter control of the web by the government, only the most wealthy can afford it and use it to manipulate everyone else, someone call Suzanne Collins, she’s got a new book to write!

Discussion Questions:
1. Are search engines and the Internet leaning more towards a dystopian or utopian future?
2. Is the idea of a world “without race, gender, and age” appealing?
3. Will unlimited knowledge and a collection if ideas through search engines achieve this?

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One comment

  1. 1. Are search engines and the Internet leaning more towards a dystopian or utopian future?

    I believe that, after the video we watched and trying this Google experiment with my roommate, search engines are moving away from an anonymous and objective structure towards a personalized and discriminating one. Now, this for me equates to dystopia. For some people, these tailored results are the epitome of utopia and perfection. This isn’t my personal opinion. I’d rather have what everyone else has, and get an equal chance at finding the same information online. While I recognize the fact that in certain situations, personalization is great and desired, I don’t think that search engines are a part of this.

    2. Is the idea of a world “without race, gender, and age” appealing?

    There is something vaguely intriguing about this concept, perhaps because it is seemingly unattainable and out of reach, at least in the real world. In the virtual realm, who knows? If we are all really just online users/minds, then there is no way for anyone to figure out our age, gender, etc. (save for details we may unintentionally give away from language use or intentional disclosures of information) which is kind of empowering. I can come from a place that is the same as any other user, and no one will be able to use their personal biases about race, age, gender, etc. to invalidate or disregard what I do or say on the web. On the other hand, what can be said of losing our individuality? Would I really want to remain completely anonymous, or do I take a certain pride in my identity as a woman, for instance? If people don’t find a strong sense of identity in these things, maybe the anonymity is irrelevant. For others, though, it may result in identity loss and confusion.

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