I Google, Therefore I Am
Nelson finds his personal relationships with Google, Pandora, and Amazon a bit too close for comfort
She’s beginning to understand me, old Internetta. Each day, she and her lap dog Webosperos know more and more about what I like, how I like it, and how much bean dip that means. She gets how I tick, brotherman, down to the last tock.
Used to be when I’d spend hours Googling myself, I had to sort through the business of Lory Nelson Greaves or Joanne Nelson Greaves. But now when I search, Our Lady of Net recognizes my self-aggrandizing habits and kicks these “lesser” results to the curb.
Same situation for Pandora. Pandy suggested a few jams to me based on what it decided my music tastes were. “I cannot be distilled!” I scoffed into the empty place on my laptop where other laptops have mics. “Behold, I am inscrutable!”
But instead of proving my own indecipherably, I was introduced to the Spanish sensation, Buika, as well as a host of exciting new bands, each of whom—without exception, I loved. (If you’re carrying a toddler right now, drop him and go check out Buika’s “Mi Niña Lola.” If you’re not, still check her out.)
Straight and simple, Internetta was right—she knew more about me than I knew about me, and as people who know about me know about me, I know about me. Is this a good thing? Bad thing? Rad thing?
Maybe I should be thrilled with the intimacy between me and The Net. Be happy I have a close friend to travel with; it’s not like my best buddy’s ever going to reduce himself to a soggy notebook-sized lump of flesh and resign his life to the task of accumulating food stains on a keyboard tattooed on that flesh. And no matter how small and convenient my girlfriend is, she’s never going to suggest the perfect pornography to me and then let me watch it on her LED stomach display. This being the case, what’s wrong with having a little robot friend who understands how I think?
Maybe nothing, but I’m still unsettled, albeit more than a bit impressed. My biggest little concern about the Web’s comprehension of me invokes Plato. Simply put, if my behaviors online spell out a pattern that enables a computer to predict parts of my personality I don’t yet know about, does this not postulate an ideal Nelson that exists somewhere in the ether, a fully-realized being grasped by the information superhighway, but doomed to exist only as a few parts that trickle down to Earth?
And if the Internet really just gets the hell out of me, maybe I should start pawning off responsibilities to it? Imagine an automatic Facebook updater: “Nelson has installed Auto Facebook.” “Nelson regrets his decision to install Auto Facebook.” “Nelson is coping with his decision to install Auto Facebook with three jars of bean dip.”
Or what if I just sent 20 bucks to my Amazon account and let it gift me its “suggested gifts”? Besides having a copy of “Manos! The Hands of Fate,” I could stop worrying about finding ways to amuse myself.
But hell, why stop there? How-To-Choose-Baby-Names.com has a baby name selector tool that analyzes your life preferences and spits out a fool-proof moniker.
Dog-or-no.com searches your Facebook history and answers the question: “Dog—or no?”
Okay, that one I made up, but is it really all this easy? Can my whole identity be represented by a series of 1’s and 0’s, which is how I’m told computers work? I may be more than the sum of my preferences, but at the end of the day, I decide I am different from, let’s say, Dave Kim, based upon what Dave prefers and what I do not. I hate pickles and Dave likes pickles, therefore Dave is dumb for liking pickles.
But then again, there’s something besides the Internet I’m not considering. You know, that other thing—what’s it called? The real world? Remember? It came out just before AOL 1.0? Well, it’s still around, and no matter how many faces robot Mark Zuckerberg suggests I be friends with, my choice in who is actually my friend is one I’ll still be making and experiencing, even if some computer did predict I’d do it.
And if nothing else, I can just reinvent myself into, say, an emo guy, which is actually what Google just suggested I do.