At first, Google was just a search engine. Well, not “just” — it was a bloody fantastic search engine. Then it was a household name, then a verb. A repository, full of snapshots of what we do and say. An oracle, a wise old man — after all, Google sees all. Everyone in my department relies on it rather heavily and they’re rather bearded-wise-old-oracle themselves 😉

In fact, at the beginning of term, we had a lecture about “how to use the library“. We were shown various online search tools such as the Web of Science and ACM Portal. There was a bit of a demo of one of these and although some of the ideas behind the searches (saving them, combining them, cross-referencing them etc) were quite good, the interface was fairly horrendous.

At the end of the lecture, Simon and I got talking about how Google should get into this sort of academic space, since searching for the articles you need in the depths of obscure and often very narrowly focused articles is quite a chore. Bam! Few weeks later Google Scholar arrives on the scene. (Incidentally, it is great and wonderful and I love the people at Google for saving my dissertation). Later Elly and I were discussing how it was a pain when you were trying to remember a quote or a bit of poetry, that you couldn’t really just search for it. Today, I read that Google is scanning the contents of various famous libraries.

My question is, how long will it be before Google holds not only just about all of our news, opinions and gossip, but also all our history, our great works of literature and our science? Once all this is contained in one massive farm of barebone computers, will Google be the personification of our ancestral and current memory? Better yet, once all the information is on hand, how much rationality is needed before sentience is achieved? How much of human sentience is what we know vs what we can do with it?