Tag Archives: Knowledge

Dear Google, “Can You Just Tell Me What Is True, Please?”

cens_burnAh, the ultimate question: “What is truth?” Humanity has debated it for thousands of years. But thanks to new developments at Google, the struggle may soon be over. Google will just tell you what’s true! Wow, that was easy!

A miracle? No. It’s just algorithms and databases. But a recent proposal by a Google funded research team is striking fear and anger in the hearts of many. What’s the big deal? Who cares? Well, you should, and here’s why: Google shapes “truth” more than you know.

You see, under Google’s current methods, popularity tends to win the day. Google gives a higher preference to websites that are heavily used and pages that have the most cross-linked information. The basic thinking is like Wikipedia: more people will link to good information and report or comment negatively about bad information.

But Google figured out that there is a lot of garbage on the Internet. After all, people will say anything. And, even worse, people will share that “anything” without checking resources. But how do you stop people from finding sites with bad information on them? Google has a solution – trust them!

So the idea is this: Google would analyze the content of a web sites and give a “Knowledge Based Trust Score” based on how closely a web site matches the several billion “facts” in their “Knowledge Vault.” Web sites that match things that Google “knows to be true” will get preferential treatment. Web sites that do not match Google’s version of “facts” will lose ranking and hits.

Hurray! After all, we like facts, right? Don’t you love truth? Hmmm…wait a second…are Google “facts” always reliable?

Well, sort of. I like Google if I want an address, a telephone number, or the metric tons of bat guano processed at mines in Puerto Rico in the late 1800’s (100 metric tons/day, by the way). But what will Google do when conflicting sources disagree about the so-called “facts” of really important stuff? Who will get preference then?

The implications are incredible. Want to know if God exists? Ask Google. Want to know how the world started? Ask Google. Want to know how to get to Heaven? Ask Google.

Starting to see the problem? The vast majority of the public uses Google as their main search engine; they are the 800-pound gorilla. What if they start steering people toward a particular denomination or religion? Or what if they determine that those answers are best left to science? The query, “Google, how am I saved?” may return ten websites about penicillin!

Now, I’m not trying to be alarmist or a conspiracy theorist on this. But it does raise questions that are worth discussing. Where do you get your information? How do you determine what a “fact” is? And are you willing to trust Google’s database of “facts” to determine what books and websites are worth reading?

If your website is “flagged” as a source that Google does not agree with, then the consequences will be significant. Your page might not even register on a web search on a given topic. After all, most people never go to those buried 3rd and 4th pages on a search. Google won’t think of it as it “censorship,” but rather, “helpful suggestions” on what is the “right” information to read. 

Pilate once challenged Jesus with the question, “What is truth?” Some people believe Pilate was really asking Jesus for Words of truth. Others believe he was sarcastically saying that truth is whatever he says it is. Either way, we are still wrestling with this question almost 2,000 years later. Can Google end the debate? If only there were a book that had the answers! Oh, wait…there is.

You see, while I may not be ready to trust Google’s “facts” on salvation, Google is a great way to look up verses in the book that does have that information – the Bible! The Bible is the only true source of facts regarding eternity. It contains the God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17) words of life. Don’t believe me? Just Google it! 😉