by G. Kim Blank (September 2009)
“I hope this world evolves so that there exists a time where somebody sitting at a terminal can access all the world’s information.”
–Tom Clancey, Engineering Director, Google Book Search
I tend to subscribe to the view of the great shifting cycles of human behavior or desire, at least in the Occident: between idealism and materialism or between the zenith and the decadence of a given civilization, as demonstrated by the shift from the idealist ancient Greek to the more materialist/pragmatist Roman civilization, succeeded by the idealist Middle Ages, to be supplanted yet again by Renaissance, whose pragmatic genius is resumed by the great Leonardo Da Vinci, and so on.
Within these great shifts are, of course, more micro, minute, shifting of tendencies. And I think of the current excess of the information age reaching, if not already reached, its summit, which, I envisage, will be necessarily followed by decadence. What kind of form this decadence will take is anyone’s guess.
What I sense is that the consumers (at least those hyper-conscious), far from feeling “complete” as the author of the article seems to suggest or at least fear, experience, rather an emptiness, a profound hunger, who begin to realize the factice of ‘connection’ ‘connectibility,’ or the idea of ‘community,’ that the facility and the speed that the revolution of information technology had seemed to promise. Just like the ‘fast food’ never really satisfies anyone, unless its consumer is totally an-aesthetic.
In sum, I believe, perhaps blindly optimistic on my part, in the human capacity for resistance to, and renouncement of, what turns out to be a factice promise, and for resuming its search for more authentic promise of happiness.
I find Kim Blank's read of Google both fascinating and ominous. If we extend his line of thought beyond Google, its unlimited capabilities and astonishing ability to level all information, then we frighteningly envisage a world where human exhange of ideas, sharing of views and in-depth thought is merely doomed. As Blank hinted at it: what's the point of even knowing something if you simply know it's somewhere (or anywhere) to be found? To me, the most frightening thing about it all is what is said at the end: knowledge is becoming information, no more, no less. Start shuddering!