The Google archipelago

On the 4th of December, 1999, I first became acquainted with Google. I know the date because I recorded it, with a pen, in a notebook. My elder son, the techie — then age thirteen — explained to me what a “search engine” is, and why I must use it. Too, why he was setting up an email account for me, over my confused objection. For he was tired of running messages for me through his own advanced equipment.

Google was something new; it was chic to all geeks; it would change the world. My little boy saw which way the wind would blow, with fair precision. The printed page was doomed, except as print-out and back-up. He was excited; I was appalled.

Of course I am appalled by any kind of “progress.” But there was more to it than that. The ability to send and receive, to store and retrieve, at such speed with such ease on such a scale, would indeed change everything. It did not portend the final victory of mere data and information over knowledge and wisdom; it achieved this. And while I could not yet envisage, in detail, the new zombie world of people attached to their “devices,” as to their clothing and tattoos, I could within a year.

I was in Seoul, Korea, the next summer, and beheld the tides of willowy chittering maidens walking that city’s sidewalks, speaking not to each other but constantly into tiny bejewelled cellphones. Yes, this was the future: everyone “linked” in the electronic cloud, progressively freed of physical interaction.

Another thing struck me, over “corporate values.” I was told the Google motto, “Don’t be evil.” I could see that it was mindlessly smug and insinuating. From experience I knew it would prove a sick paradox.

With traditional religion already washed from the brains of the young, we would now be swept by the new religion of the electronic mob. It could have no anchor. Words themselves would humpty-dumpty at a greatly accelerated pace. The great mass of the deracinated were, in a sense, passing outside time. Henceforth they would live only in the present, with no conception of the past; and too, no appreciation of the future. They would cease to feel responsible for the consequences of their acts.

For morality would be reduced to opinion, and opinion dictated by the electronic mob. The “winners” in the new political order could only be the purveyors of fashion; and fashion is on the Left. This has been so since the French Revolution. Style means Left; Right means outmoded.

We come to James Damore, a young man of partially independent mind, who wrote (at management request) a memo on the Google company’s “diversity” efforts. With all statements of fact carefully sourced, and all arguments modestly reasoned, he suggested that certain known realities about human nature might play a part in human behaviour; that there could be reasons beyond conscious oppression why, for instance, women were so rare in high tech. When this memo was “outed,” he was not only fired, but then exhaustively smeared, not only by his employers but by millions who do not feel the slightest compunction to read what they attack, and could not follow it if they tried. This is our brave, unctuous new world of “shamestorming.”

Alas, it is just what I was expecting, from Google of course, but also from all major Internet operators (from Facebook to GoDaddy). They take upon themselves the “Don’t be evil” responsibility to censor and smear all viewpoints that vary from their own passing notions. Combining intellectual mediocrity with unprecedented power, they will now “command the good.”