The personal learning network for educators
Gulliver's Travels was one of the finest pieces of literary work. Not only was it fantastically creative, it told us profound things about the world. Many parts of that book still apply to situations we have today, although perhaps in surprising ways. Take the Laputians for example. These were brilliant people that were so wrapped up in their own thoughts that they required servants to remind them to speak or to listen. I find this fascinating since this means that the servant now decides what his master will be exposed to. The servant choses when something is "interesting" or "worth while".
Our online lives resemble those of the Laputians. We too have servants who decide when information is important or relavent to us. They come in the vise of personal ads and personalized search. Don't get me wrong- personalization can be great. After all, if you type in "china" wouldn't it be great if the search engine knew whether you were talking about dishes or a country? Consider the all the advertisement we see as well. I'd rather see ads for stuff I like rather than junk I really don't care about. The problem comes when we are filtered from seeing discenting ideas. Our minds become small and we learn less.
The internet is a sea of information. Much of it agrees with our preconceived notions but just as much is challenging and therefor illuminating. Confirmation bias (our knack for cherry picking facts to fit our beliefs) is hard enough to deal with as it is. If these digital servants are filtering out uncomfortable bits of information, my bias grows worse.
To get around the filters and broaden your search results, you may want to try one or more of the following suggestions.
1) Delete your account.
2) Use the library.
3) Toss your cookies.
4) Use a different browser
5) Go incognito
6) Set your location to “United States”
So, remember the Laputians? They were all caught up in their own thoughts; seeing and hearing the pieces of the world their servants found relevant. Jonathan Swift makes them out to be fools in the end. Lets do what we can to make sure that Google doesn’t make fools of us.