Those Google boys, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have once again, and inadvertently, demonstrated the virtues of a good liberal arts education, which they obviously missed out because they were busy learning to be computer engineering geniuses. (And I say that will all due respect.)
Backstory (brief version): I use and admire google. It’s an incredibly useful tool. I also appreciate that Brin and Page want to scan the world’s books so that the information in them will be accessible to everyone. (This is a controversial project that prompted a lawsuit by the Authors Guild, which was recently settled, and, in my opinion, well-settled.)
Anyway, my complaint about the scanning project was the motivation behind it: The idea that scanning the world’s books would somehow capture the world’s “information.”
It won’t. Archives, for example, contain millions of pages of unpublished manuscript material: letters and diaries, for example, are the mainstay of many historians’ work. So, too, old magazines and newspapers, whether published in 1790, 1890, or 1990.
Many of those are available on microfilm, and many are being digitized. But the number of digitized pages, whether of manuscripts or newspapers, is minute relative to the total.
Anyway, the point is that the world’s “knowledge” isn’t now and never will be confined to books.
But apparently the notion that “books” might be, ya know, useful, is still a novel (no pun intended) concept for our googleaders. Consider this quote from Sergey in a report in today’s New York Times.
There is fantastic information in books. Often when I do a search, what is in a book is miles ahead of what I find on a Web site.
Damn! Ya think? Wow. I had no idea. Must ponder this insight from Sergey — in between working on my next book, which, like the previous one, will take five years of my life because it will require me to conduct substantive primary research using material that can’t be found in books. And the finished product will itself be a book that will contain “fantastic information” that is “miles ahead” of something found on the internet.