Posted by: nickgerlich | July 1, 2008

Know Da Verbs

The ultimate price of success in American business is when your brand name becomes generic. Courts have sometimes ruled against companies whose products became such household names that the original product category word is replace with the brand name. Examples abound of these successes, with common names like Kleenex, Band-Aid, Jello, and Vaseline always living in fear they could one day lose their trademark status.

It is an even greater feat, though, when a brand name becomes a verb, for this signifies more than a thing. It is an action. For many years we have been Xeroxing, when in fact all we were doing was making copies. The act of sending an overnight document is now FedExing.

GoogleAnd in the internet era, the name that comes to mind the most is Google. Everyone Googles. Google is synonymous with both search engines and searching. At $552 per share last week, who could argue the importance (social,financial, and otherwise) of this company?

But, alas, the lead story in the July/August issue of Atlantic Monthly posits that Google might be making us Stoopid (sic). That’s a pretty heady remark for something as ubiquitous as Google, a tool used every day by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

So let us consider the claim. There is no doubt that Google is used to help us find anything and everything, be it obscure facts or information to help us shop. The author, Nicholas Carr, alleges that Google is causing him to no longer seek information the way he once did. “Once I was a scuba diver in the sear of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

Carr contends that we want information in clips just like we watch video snippets on YouTube. In the process, he argues, we are losing the ability to process large amounts of information in their entirety and within their context.

While Carr may moan the loss of yester-year search techniques, he needs to awaken from his snooze. This is no Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Our lives demand instant searchability; no longer do we have time for War and Peace. We no longer want or need the orange; we only need its essence. While I do not doubt that some great literature may be lost on present and future generations, it will still be there if we have the time and desire to read it. Until then, though, we need to be able to plow through the warehouse of cataloged knowledge to find only what we need…and in a hurry.

And if Carr is really serious about his neo-Luddite quest, he should be certain to not pick up a smart phone that can search Google or its mapping service, because that would make things all too easy while out of the office. He needs to savor the joys of looking through phone books and atlases, and lugging them along in his car.

But I doubt he would actually use a cell phone anyway. That would be plain stoopid when you could just drive over to someone’s house to talk to them.

Dr “Google This” Gerlich


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