Coffee for Thought: Is Google paralysing our ability to Create?

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Update: Yes, Paralysing should be Paralyzing. If I change it the link will break

Over the past 4 years, a number of amazing things have happened to let mere-mortals like us have instant access to an unsurmountable amount of information.

The spearhead of this grand act of collecting and organizing the worlds information has been no other than Google. Apart from Google’s basic search, it is amazing how quickly we can now find books, patent documents, news, and blog articles in a matter of minutes.

So what happens if we’re working on something and a question pops into our head starting with “So how do I…?”. Well we go to Google and search away. What if the question is “What is…?” Go to Wikipedia! If the Question is “I wondering how I ?” You could likely find a live demonstration in Google Video + YouTube.

But is this really helping us?

I will give you a simple example of the decay that I see: The means and method of creating software has shifted from something that used to be engineering (i.e. translating complex needs of multiple stakeholders) into something that is more technician-oriented work (i.e. plugging things together).

9/10 times, when the “engineer” today (atleast in these parts) comes across a problem, he / she would just jump to Google, and start hunting for either a solution already written by someone else that can simply be copied and pasted, or a framework that can just be plugged in.

While reusing and integrating horizontally has its economic benefits in some cases, there are many times when the task of actually Writing and Creating a solution would take 5% of the time that it takes to actually find the relevant information.

So what about this engineer who spends 3 days looking for a solution because he is just not trained to design, think and create something for himself in 10-20 minutes?

The human brain will always be faster than the best Google algorithms, but because the information is there, we are no longer training ourselves to “search” the brain for answers.

I believe this is huge problem for an important reason — when and how can the industry get on the innovation curve if they are so dependent on Google giving them answers?

Simply put, if the answer already exists, then how can it be Intellectual Property to begin with?

I would love to get everyone’s thoughts on this.

I had a coffee session recently with Hassan Bajwa, who is a DJ for City FM 89, and he had a very interesting take on this which I paraphrase below.

What our educators are failing to realize is that 5-10 years ago, the most important aspect of learning was the ability to learn and recall information. Information was just not readily available and what was needed was to train people on putting it inside their heads for recall later when they were solving problems.However, with so much information out there today, the training that is required is: How do we use the brain as a Processing Tool, rather than just a Warehouse — how do we now take all of the information that is out there, parse it, structure it, and make sense out of it? How do we store that structure for recall later?

A typical example is with Law. In Pakistan still, the focus is on learning all of the clauses of the law, whereas in Denmark, universities focus more on teaching kids how to parse archives of thousands of cases to create a trail of similar cases in the past that would help win your next one.

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  • I am working on search solutions for my company intranet and interestingly because of multiple reasons google enterprise search is not getting us the results we need. Just one example where creative thinking and crafting a solution based on specific scenarios is more important than doing the obvious.

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