Nicholas Carr laments the evolution of web search, regretting that “Google’s goal is no longer to read the web. It’s to read us”:
In its new design, Google’s search engine doesn’t push us outward; it turns us inward. It gives us information that fits the behavior and needs and biases we have displayed in the past, as meticulously interpreted by Google’s algorithms. Because it reinforces the existing state of the self rather than challenging it, it subverts the act of searching. We find out little about anything, least of all ourselves, through self-absorption.
He quotes the opening lines of Robert Frost’s poem “The Most of It”:
He thought he kept the universe alone;
For all the voice in answer he could wake
Was but the mocking echo of his own
From some tree-hidden cliff across the lake.
Some morning from the boulder-broken beach
He would cry out on life, that what it wants
Is not its own love back in copy speech,
But counter-love, original response.
As Frost understood, a true search is as dangerous as it is essential. It’s about breaking the shackles of the self, not tightening them.