Before you come at me with a misguided defence of your intellectual supremacy, I want to remind you that this is a quick meditation about Google’s algorithm and research.
As you might notice, there are humans out there who claim to do their “own” research, and as a result, achieve better conclusions than the experts in any field.
Let me clarify my position by stating that I encourage additional investigation of any proposition. Even with established truths, it is critical to read more about them to understand them better. You should always want to know more about essential topics.
Moving on from that clarification, I must also offer a valid caveat about the reasons for investigating any given idea or topic.
Reading a few articles on the far corners of the Internet or watching poorly sourced videos on YouTube doesn’t qualify you to argue with life-long academics and scientists. At the very least, your limited vantage point (and your lack of resources) doesn’t afford you the right to dismiss good science.
There are two problems I want to point to in this quick meditation about what many call “research.”
Confirmation bias is the human disposition to select data that fits an existing worldview, especially when that data validates an emotional attachment to ideas.
It affects how humans search for information and interpret that information to suit the notions they already hold true. Studies find that this bias affects memory recall and other attitudes towards information.
And the implications of confirmation bias are far-reaching. Overconfidence resulting from the apparent validation of a lousy idea leads people to poor choices. Socially, those bad ideas lead to bad policies and norms that interfere with progress. You can see this interference in the current political climate.
I’ll also need to point out that this bias is ubiquitous to the species and subconscious in nature.
Most psychological biases are subconscious, and if at any point you thought that you were immune to their effects on your thinking and behaviour, you need to consider revisiting the idea.
If you think you’re not susceptible to confirmation bias, you’re simply wrong. Your susceptibility to this and other biases doesn’t reflect your intelligence, only your reality as a human being.
“Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.”—Michael Shermer
The Google Algorithm
Google is, before anything else, a marketing company. It aims to provide you with information you are looking for about things you potentially want to buy. And it has to provide this service to billions of people. The mathematical implications of this service are staggering even for learning computers that can perform millions of calculations per second.
“Google Search (also known simply as Google), is a search engine provided by Google. Handling over 3.5 billion searches per day, it has a 92% share of the global search engine market. It is also the most-visited website in the world.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Search
Your Google search results are affected by how you structure your search strings currently and historically. Basically, Google computers (or your own) remember what you searched yesterday to provide you with what they think are optimal results today.
You can’t blame Google or any other search engine for this behaviour – their mission is to give you what you are looking for at any given time. It is, or it should be up to you to filter data properly and consider your personal biases before accepting anything you read on the Internet.
And no, it matters not how you feel about an idea. The truth doesn’t have to make sense to you.
Considering these two basic points and observing your duty to intellectual honesty, think twice before renouncing anything because you’ve “done your own research”.
As the Dracco said on on Twitter:
Thank you for reading.
— The Devil Unbound