After reading this interesting yet disturbing article in the Guardian about how Google’s autocomplete spells out our darkest thoughts, I began to wonder how much you could learn about the world from Google’s autocomplete results.
I have always considered this feature to be sometimes amusing but also slightly irritating. I’ve often wanted to shout out ‘No you DON’T know what I’m about to say’, as I would to anyone who keeps finishing my sentences for me.
women should be silent
We learned from our friend Chris Fielden’s Exterminate blog series that some of the search terms revealed by autofill results border on terrifying. After all, Google reveals our deepest darkest secrets by showing the world exactly what we look for the most. The UN ad campaign (subject of aforementioned Guardian article) reveals that sexual discrimination is very much still ingrained in society, regardless of where in the world that society is.
The search suggestions show that popular searches underneath ‘Women should‘ all ran along the lines of ‘be silent’, ‘stay at home’, ‘be in the kitchen’, and ‘not drive’, but when you type in ‘Men shouldn’t‘, the first suggestion is: ‘hit women’ (hurray!) but the others are all along the lines of: ‘wear white socks’, ‘take selfies’, ‘eat soy’ and ‘pay for dates’. Wow.
You can try this at home, I’m not even joking.
bloggers are losers
It’s an interesting if depressing exercise to take a look at exactly how some things and some people are viewed by the world. It tells us that we have some really big problems to deal with.
In order to veer in a lighter direction, I then started to wonder what I could learn from it in relation to our occupation. We are writers, we love the written word and take pride in our craft and make it our business to create interesting content for others to read. That is how some of us define ourselves.
Some of us aren’t poets or fiction writers, we are bloggers. We comment upon the world and share what we feel is interesting with others. In a nutshell.
What does Google tell us?
Whilst bloggers can maybe enjoy the ‘new celebrities’ status, the rest are pretty damning and reveal a real distaste for those who blog.
I then decided to replace ‘bloggers’ with ‘writers’ and see if that made any difference.
‘Engineers of the soul’, I like.
‘Crazy’ and ‘weird’, I’ve been called these things by some of my dearest friends.
Lazy, desperate, forgetful loners? Interesting way to describe people who enrich the world with wisdom, with characters that will live on forever, with knowledge that is passed down from generation to generation and stories that will never be forgotten.
how does it work?
Now, Google suggestions are algorithmically determined in various ways and based on various factors, including:
- Search activity of all web users
- Your own search activity
- Region and language
- Popularity of search terms
So Google uses data about general web usage and popular queries and predicts what you are looking for, but you end up learning just what people really think of you.
But not to worry, the suggestions are updated very regularly so when a popular and current event is taking place or some celebrity scandal has just broken, you can guarantee that Google will be there to predict exactly what you want to know about it, even before you do.
want to know what I think?
I think this feature is a useful tool to determine many things and I hope that the predictions become less vitriolic and scary one day. But until then, they will simply reflect how the world is, I guess.
And to those who think that bloggers are stupid and that writers are lazy: “There is no darkness but ignorance” (William Shakespeare).
And to those inspiring Google to tell us that women should be seen and not heard, go and make us a sandwich while we get on with running the world, will you?
Please leave some comments & let’s get a debate going!