How Google is making us Smarter.
While Nicholas Carr is decrying the , he stumbles through a quote by Nietzsche to a friend on the effect a typewriter was having on his writing. The intriguing part of the quote is “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.”
Carr goes on at length to describe changes in technology that have affected the manner in which we write, all the while fearing that he is losing his mind à la HAL in 2001. What he misses is that we really do not truly understand the mind, at least not enough to gauge the effect the Google, or the web for that matter, has on it or our abilities.
If we truncate Nietzsche, we arrive at a statement more applicable to the state of Google today. That is, our equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts. Case in point, an about the Petabyte Age. In particular, "with enough data, the numbers speak for themselves."
The sheer onslaught of available data has lead some biologists to the realization that their models, and the methods they used to develop and test them, are obsolete. Work by exemplifies the results of such analysis. Moving beyond mapping the genome, he has sequenced ecosystems, oceans and air itself.
Venter's analysis has gone beyond the traditional methodology in that he is not trying to build and test models from mountains of data. One result is that by identifying similar and unique sequences (or blips, as Wired calls them) in ecosystem data, he was able to identify undiscovered species as well as tracing their evolution. In doing so, he has made great advances in biology in the last decade alone.
Now, how does all of this relate to Google and Carr's fear of losing his mind? Well, the NSF funded is designed to use "internet scale distributed computing systems" to, among other things, run simulations of the brain and nervous systems and compile it with data from other areas of related biological research, identifying related and unique sequences in the data patterns.
In the simplest of terms, it is a distributed search engine. As such, it is no wonder that Google, along with IBM, are involved in the development of the distributed computing platform. As described in the Wired article:
The cluster will consist of 1,600 processors, several terabytes of memory, and hundreds of terabytes of storage, along with the software, including Google File System, IBM's Tivoli, and an open source version of Google's MapReduce.Perhaps this will give Mr. Carr some reassurance that Google is not out to take his mind, but instead hand it to him on a silver platter.
Google is making us SMARTER!
Courtesy of DISCOVER MAGAZINE