A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

What’s wrong with Google?

Marshall McLuhan (March 3, 1959, age 47).  Another breakthrough!

You have no doubt noticed that the first thing we do with a new invention is to use it in old ways.  It is not a coincidence that the automobile was originally called “the horseless carriage,” the railroad “the iron horse,” and, at least in Britain, the radio was known as “the wireless.”

Me (July, 2010, age 57).  Google may be leading us down memory lane.

Whether or not Google is being used in old or new ways, it is as McLuhan taught extending or enhancing some part of us, but what?  Some months ago,  Julien Smith blogged about how Google was making it unnecessary to remember things.  And as a result, he suggested, we may be losing our power to remember.  Who starred in that movie?  Who wrote that book?  How did that old song go?  Don’t worry about it. Google it!

In artificially extending our memories the technology may be weakening our natural powers to remember.   This is a concern.  But it may also be that Google is doing more than our memory work for us; it may be leading us down memory lane.  With it we can remember more than we ever could, and, as a result, find ourselves more interested in recovering old ideas than discovering new ones.  This may be a greater concern.

What do you use Google for?  The old or the new?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews.  Edited by Stephanie McLuhan and David Staines, 2003, p. 2.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Michael Hinton Friday, July 16th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

Leave a Reply