We are putting off our thinking cap by relying on search en…

Samarjit Kambam
Now-a-days, Google has become our virtual mom and dad. In this extremely competitive advanced world of information technology, Google has become a mammoth entity, one which other corporations can’t dream of ruffling its feathers. Google has even come up with driverless cars and high end smartphones and is undergoing various futuristic projects. In fact it has climbed lofty heights and explored uncharted virtual territories where others hardly dare to tread. Millions of people around the world use Google and its affiliated services everyday. It has become a phenomenon in the virtual world and we actually derive a lot of benefits from it. We can expand our knowledge easily by using it.
There is no doubt that everyone of us has many things we don’t know. In ancient times when people stumbled across knowledge-oriented difficult things beyond their abilities, they often took help from books or knowledgeable persons. But nowadays, we can simply put some key words in the search box and then in less than a second, thousands of answers pop up on the screen which in fact is quite amazing. However, relying on search engines has its scores of cons.
The contemporary school going youngsters and kids can get access to information at the click of a button or a slight touch on the screen. Even though, the kids of now-a-days are cramped with information overload and garner many advanced knowledge compared to their elders and parents, is only accruing information virtually at a fast pace the solution to all especially when it comes to education? I doubt it. Most of the contemporary high school goers find it hard to compose even a paragraph on a particularly topic without relying on Google and other high-end search engine. When they make a write-up, they rely on Google or other search engines on the respective topic and jot down not only the facts and key points but even the whole wordings as well. This is resulting in less use of the brains of school going kids as they really find it hard to put together words or phrases in an orderly manner just like attaching flowers in a string to make it into a garland. Composing a verse of music requires the notes of the music to be chained in a sequential or progressive way to create a beautiful melody. The same applies to composing words to make it into a paragraph, an essay or an article. A beautifully composed piece of writing is music to the eyes.
It’s a pity that the kids of now-a-days know all jargons and technical terms but hit rock bottom when it comes to literature. The youngsters are getting less and less interested in literature and philosophical thinking but accruing more and more knowledge in technological knowhow. The present system of education by relying heavily on virtual education goes divergent to the approach of a holistic education. All-round development of the mindset is absent such as human values, compassion, respect and basic courtesy, discipline, social interaction viz a viz which in turn will churn out machine like humans in the near future.
Relying on search engines to look up for sites are okay for purposes of marketing, ticketing, hotel booking and the likes but there are times when people look forward for ideas at search engines which is a negative approach wherein the brain is kept dull or in standby mode by relying on information doorway which in turn will lead to poor decision making, poor ability to come up with bright ideas and creative thinking. Course, it’s easy to use, fast, and answers to one’s queries pops up quickly. Google does a phenomenal job by keeping up with new information by extracting the information quickly from various sites. The risk is when a brand like “Google” becomes synonymous with “search” because there are varying degrees of search technology.  There are scenarios in which apps and Internet-based search engines will not get the job done and relying on them for certain mission-critical tasks sometimes leads to a grave mistake. These limitations do not apply to Google only, but also to other in-house search solutions that are based on or derived from internet search engine technology.
One sore point is that sites are randomly selected by softwares such as “web crawlers”. They are not evaluated for quality or reference. One needs to be very specific when selecting keywords as there are so many web pages. Search can result in too many varying results also which leaves one stranded thereby resulting in wastage of time instead of saving it. So, search engines also have disadvantages even though we find it hard to accept the reality. Firstly, search engines show way too much useless stuffs on our screen. Sometimes, you even cannot find anything useful, appropriate or significant results. Secondly, those who use search engines frequently may become lethargic or even stupid. Everytime they stumble upon know-how logjams, they just go for search engines. They even do not spend a little time to think of them. I think those are not good habits. Lastly, search engines may bring people towards harmful information or various websites which are especially hazardous for children such as pornographic sites. And search engines have not found the best way to keep those evil websites from kids. Besides, many site owners add unnecessary contents in their websites which has no relevance to the keyword. The writer is of the view that search engines are not always perfect. They filter results according to the information that a particular user has given them, which rarely provides an accurate reflection of a user’s real interests. Although it is less of a problem than it used to be, search engine rankings have always been manipulated by ‘keyword-stuffing” which is the inclusion of unnaturally large number of search terms into web pages. One disappointing facet is that rankings are almost certainly affected in some way or other by the search engine companies’ commercial interests vide their dependence on paid advertising and promotion of their own products. People who use search engines we well as people who own websites underestimate the vast number of individual web pages that often touch on a particular topic with accurate results. Besides, search engine rankings depend fundamentally upon the search terms that are used. Most users of search engines do not know how to create the most appropriate search terms. Sometimes, relevance to the topic under discussion and the authority or importance of the website that provides the link goes divergent. Many instances of irrelevant search results are due to the imperfect application of the concept of authority. A common complaint is that searches for information about commercial products are rendered useless because of the number of worthless comparison websites that often occupy the first few pages of search results. Although keyword-stuffing is frequently a factor of robust comparison of websites some are ranked highly because they are considered authoritarian. At the time of searching for information, Google considers Wikipedia to be authoritarion, which is why it often appears at the top of search rankings, even when the Wikipedia page in question is not particularly relevant to the search query. Wikipedia’s bizarre bureaucratic system allows the editing of individual pages to be controlled by cliques or interested parties. Consequently, search results can be deliberately manipulated. So, who is to blame? Will part of the blame fall on the search engines or the users?
So many manipulations are going on in the world of search engines due to the effect of paid advertising. Once a site becomes established and popular, its primary purpose normally changes. From providing a source of relatively significant information to its users, they provide a source of advertising revenue for its owners. The normal, organic search results are used to attract users, whose attention can be sold to advertisers. There is always a conflict between a site’s ability to provide useful information through search engine for free and its need to keep its paying customers, the advertisers, happy. If the organic search results are too accurate, few people will bother to look at the advertisements. As well as the inevitable technical limitations, there is institutional pressure to make search engine results less informative than they could be. It is commonly understood that the commercial print and broadcast media’s dependence on advertising revenue affects the way in which many news topics are selected and reported. Little is known on how the objectivity of search results is affected by the same dependence on advertising revenue, but it is reasonable to suppose that it is affected in some way or the other, considering that advertising revenue is an even greater proportion of income for mammoth companies such as Google than for traditional media companies. So, even for getting accurate results, there is a jungle out there where Darwin’s “Survival for the fittest” applies with all the authoritarianisms, favouritisms, manipulations, rivalisms, use of virtual muscle-power going on in the world of information technology. You can rely on search engines for information and knowledge, but the writer is of the opinion that relying too much on them is tantamount to taking our thinking caps off. And, by the way, they may help you, but don’t expect miracles from them. (The writer can be reached at [email protected])

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