Google as a Truth Engine?

Most people lie. At least, so it seems, according to a recent podcast by Terry O’Reilly’s Under the Influence, which, unlike many shows Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC, speaks a lot of truth, I suppose because it’s about advertising. Sure, advertisers lie, but, at the end of the day, they must face the reality, for people either buy their products, or they don’t. And if the product is deficient, word gets around.

The more intriguing thing in this particular episode is that although humans fib on everything from resume, to awkward social situations, to whether they give to charities, they always tell the truth to Google, a truth that had never fully dawned upon me. In the intimacy of our homes and their personal computers, we enter into the global search engine what is really on their hearts, minds and consciences. It is, in an apt analogy from Mr. O’Reilly, a ubiquitous confessional box. Who knew that the most common question wives type in about their husbands is whether they are ‘gay’.

The problem, of course, is that such confessions go not to God for forgiveness, but to algorithmic ‘mind’ of Google, which sells your deepest truths for profit, and a lot of it. Google may not always give the truth, or at least the whole truth – its searches are biased by the ideological humans who design and tweak what responses may be shown – but, in some ironic and perhaps even demonic way, it has an insatiable appetite for all of your most hidden secrets.

It’s well past time to get back into a real confessional box, where the truth about ourselves – all of our warts and sins, unadorned and unpalliated – will truly set us free.