Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Tone Down the Hype, Please

I really don't like the way the Daily Dish clumps its posts together. It makes it difficult to set a decent permalink, but I'll work around it for this post.

The news that Google is digitizing the contents of five major libraries strikes me as a good thing. More people with more access to information is the key to a greater rate of innovation.

Much like prognostications of the power of the internet pre-tech stock crash, however, the characterization of the impact is reaching ludicrous proportions. I mean, comparing a Googlized library to "the Mind of God"? Intimating that level of power to this information under his control can backfire. I've already been hearing of conspiracy theories of what is to come. Because the digital format is so malleable with no proper way to identify changes, it will be too easy to alter the data that people see, a la Winston Smith of 1984. And much like Big Brother, that type of information will be used to control the people.

I don't buy it. It is precisely because people already know that data can be changed in a blink online that makes the blogosphere a very sensitive bullshit detector. Whatever particularly useful texts that exist in these libraries will also exist in countless copies elsewhere either online or physically. If changes are made, it will inevitably cross paths with someone familiar with the original. The fact that it is Google and renowned libraries only gives the enterprise a starting reputation. If that power is abused, then the bubble reputation will burst.

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