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social, health, political imagery through the lens of George J Huba PhD © 2012-2017

The Research by Google Era (rivaling such earlier eras as the Babylonian Empire, the Empire of Alexander, the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages Papacy, the Incan Era, the British Commonwealth,  the American Experiment in Democracy, and the forthcoming Intergalactic Federation) is here.

I think the Research by Google Era is the most “important” one yet.

Go ahead, Google it. How many minorities voted for Obama in 2008? How many times was Bill Clinton sued for “inappropriate” behavior toward female subordinates? How much money did Ghaddafi and family steal from the people of Libya? How many books are contained in the New York Public Library? What is the net worth of Bill and Melinda Gates? Their Foundation? What do they pay the Executive Director of their Foundation? Who should be credited for the “discovery” of the structure of DNA (this one is very complicated; not the DNA model but the politics about who would be credited)? How much did Mitt Romney pay in taxes? Has Mitt ever been audited by the IRS?

Think you know how many Christians, Muslims, and others are in the population of the world? Google it. Now compare the ESTIMATES from the top sources that come out of the search engine. Hhmmm. Kind of hard to tell what percentage of the world’s population is Christian, Muslim, or some other religion isn’t? [I do not hold anyone accountable for knowing the “correct” number of Jews in the world as Jews, to this very minute, are still trying to figure out who is a Jew and who gets a free pass to Israeli citizenship. Nobody has any idea how to count Russians forced to abandon Judaism during the era of the Soviet Union or Jewish dads who married a woman who is not Jewish. It goes on and on. Somehow, I suspect that if I knew as much about Islam and “Chinese traditional religion” (under the Chinese communists) as I do about Judaism and its politics, I’d be just as sure there is little consensus on basic number counts.]

Think counting religions is hard? Try getting data on the prevalence and incidence of health issues-problems.

It makes my head spin every night when I see 99% of the  TV reporters struggling to explain the error of a survey. (They use several different erroneous explanations and once in a while somebody gets it correct.) What if we were to also hold them accountable for knowing whether the information they cite is valid, reliable, biased, consistent. Wow. And I haven’t started to spout equations yet. I watch them Google for data while they are on TV and the results are often so ludicrous that they should cut power at the broadcasting tower. Wait until the lawyers figure out that they can sue for incorrect data as the result of a search and win large judgments. Maybe they will even stop suing medical doctors.

Recently a college student was in the news because he plagiarized a post on a blog and copy and pasted it onto his class-assignment blog. Along the way he changed a numbered list to a text list (presumably by pushing one key in Microsoft Word or Pages). Did he plagiarize from a world expert, someone famous, his professor? Nope. He plagiarized from an 11-year-old boy. Presumably Google helped him identify the 11-year-old as the source of the definitive information on poultry farming.

OK boys and girls. Google does not tell you a number or a conclusion or an interpretation or whether a calculation is correct or incorrect. All it tells you is that the publisher of the information on the Internet knows how to get the search engine(s) to go to that site for information on various topics. If all you do is take the data from Google and cut and paste and reformat it the term “research” does not fit. Google itself states that as their lawyers have instructed them to tell you not to trust the data uncovered by Google.

These days, if I were to believe the bio statements in Twitter and Facebook and Linked profiles, I think that it is reasonable to conclude that there are now more people working to trick Google into citing them and their advertising-laden web sites (these are the practitioners of search engine optimization, an arcane field that seems to involve a boiling pot, wand, broom, and common spices available at Walmart) as a definitive source of information than there are people working on creating valid, reliable, and original information and other data.

The Google Era for research. Don’t get too used to it. The empire will soon fall down.

And yes, apparently an 11-year-old can trick Google (and a college student) into thinking he is more of an authority on poultry farming than the US Department of Agriculture or any university agricultural professor or any science writer at a major newspaper. And yes, both the sixth-grader and the college student failed to mention anything about inhumane poultry production practices, genetically engineered turkeys and chickens, and the use of antibiotics in over crowded production areas. Guess Google did not tell them to write that. Or think that such problems are ones worth thinking about. That’s OK if you are in sixth grade, although it is kind of sloppy. College? Lucky for him that pro football does not care about chickens.

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