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Is Google becoming our collective brain?

By some estimates, Google has over half a million servers that each month crunch the equivalent of all the data in the entire library of congress 240 times over. Well over half of web users go to Google for answers to their questions, asking the machine over 400 million queries per day. Slowly but surely, Google is becoming our collective brain. Consider this: Google can now predict flu outbreaks weeks in advance simply by monitoring searches for flu terms (‘sore throat’), and aggregating this based on location. They’ve launched this service as Google Flu Trends. ‘From a technological perspective, it is the beginning’, says Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s chief executive. So where is this is all heading?

If we accept that Google is becoming the repository of all our information (via its enormous web archive of over 25 billion pages), and the collector of all our questions (via our 400 million search queries a day), it’s not a such big step to argue that by owning the input and the output, it’s becoming a collective world brain.

If Google can predict flu outbreaks, presumably its engineers can also pull back our collective mood (the world is ‘grumpy’ based on search terms), hopes, dreams and more.

Should Google become a collective asset for the world to harness in non-commercial ways?

Judging by Yahoo’s top searches for 2008 (with Britney Spears at number one), Yahoo is its teen sibling.

About the author

I co-founded Lost At E Minor in 2005 and run Conversant Media.