17 January 2009

Bryter Layter

My debating debut yesterday - opposing the motion "Far from making us stupid, Google is making us brighter".  I started off - weeks ago - thinking that the answer was that Google doesn't have the capacity to make us either: it merely serves information to us.  It's a robot, taking our instructions and leading us to what we want.

Well, I was wrong.  When I started to look into the subject, using Google naturally, I came across an article which must have influenced whoever suggested the wording of the motion.  Indeed, the proposer referred to it quite extensively ... although it didn't strike me as being helpful to her argument, a point that she actually mentioned herself.  Clearly, using Google is having effects on the way our brains work, as the invention of writing did, and then the invention of printing - events that also had an importnat bearing on copyright law, as I realised.

In one sense it is unfair to blame Google for all this - it is rather the Internet that shortens our attention span and makes skimmers of us all.  But Google (as a corporate entity) is interested in articial intellegence, and once it starts to do our thinking for us, rather than merely serving information for us to process, a qualitative change will have occurred.  It is already happening, with key words: see my posting on my IPso-jure blog about Marks & Spencer and Interflora here.  The motion, by failing to distinguish between the search engine and the company, was a little ambiguous.

I gave what I thought was a pretty good speech against the motion.  My seconder gave an interesting, and very disconcerting, exposition based on his own experiences of being sought out by threatening critics using Google, and my recent experience acting for clients who are defamed on anonymous blogs and forums makes me deeply uneasy about the way the Internet is used.

I wrapped up my opening speech by referring to my status, courtesy of an earlier blog posting, as the leading auhority on the Ineternet - indeed, the only authority - on Nissan Micra water pump drive belts.  Taht anyone should refer to my work on the subject seemed to me the height of stupidity - or so I said, allowing myself some artistic licence: it was a joke, and was received as one.  But I summed up my answering speech at the end by talking about Google's development of artificial intelligence, and whether for that reason or otherwise a majority voted against the motion.  So, not a bad debut.  It gives me encouragement to branch out in the public speaking sphere.

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