The Internet's Memory is Fuzzy
I’m pretty good at search -- I was looking for a video on Youtube by the Singing Guitars where they cover Polyushko Pole, but I couldn’t remember the name “Polyushko Pole” so I searched for “Russian revolutionary song” and managed to find it.
Of course, the song is in Russian, so the only way to find it was to use Google translate and so I could search for “Поющие Гитары - Полюшко-Поле” which worked great. Next thing you know I’ve got the grainy black and white images of the Russian Beatles singing the traditional song with some Venture’s styling on their guitars.
Then, following Youtube’s recommendation, I watched another video, “Cумерки,” which sounded really familiar. I’m sure it’s been translated to English or maybe even was an English song translated to Russian. So I decided to search for it…
And this is where the Internet shows how short term its memory is.
“Cумерки” translates to English as “Twilight.” Go ahead, try to find anything with the word “Twilight” on Google and tell me you don’t find references to vampires and werewolves. Searching on the word in Russian doesn’t help any because Google is so damn helpful it just translates it or I find Russian covers of songs from saga.
The Hive Mind is so overwhelmed by recent events that it’s impossible to separate out a song from the 1960s because of a movie in the 2010s. It’s all there, somewhere… but that’s the way memory works, not computer searches.
I saw an old favorite film the other night on cable, and found the layers of more recent stuff piling on top of older stuff makes it hard to remember who was in a movie I saw 20 years ago. Had you asked last week I would have said that I know Kim Cattrall from those incessant Sex in the City reruns -- my memory doesn’t connect her to Big Trouble in Little China. That’s what IMDB is for.
But, as it turns out, as the creators of this crazy repository of all things trivial and not, our human memory is imprinting on our technical memory. We’re piling things so the PhD’s at Google come up with new ways to “help” find things. And those new ways turn out to be old ways -- what’s foremost in the Hive Mind? What’s important is what people remember, not what we need right now.
Ultimately, search is going to feed us what the Hive is thinking about. Maybe I don’t really need to find all the little connections between an obscure Russian song in the 60s, but I can tell you I don’t need to see another picture of sullen teens covered in glitter… Even if that is, unfortunately, what people think of when they hear the word “Twilight” and that’s what the Internet tells you about when you ask about “Cумерки.”
To find things that aren’t part of the general consciousness of the billions of people wired into the net means we’re going to have to bring something else to the process. Something like experience and real knowledge. Which, unfortunately for Silicon Valley, we still don’t seem to be able to program that…