So, Google has all the answers — or so I am told. Just the other day, my son, Sid, was trying to find some answers for his science project. All he had to do, was type down the question in the browser and the computer found the answer from Google!
It is not that he doesn’t have books for his research. He has many that are child-friendly — with large colourful pictures. There is also the Encyclopedia and the Q&A that seem to have answers to every possible question. Yet, he finds the whole exercise “daunting”. He would much rather ask Google.
“I bet, there are some things that Google doesn’t know”, I challenged. I had a vicious plan to stump the search engine. I tried to find a word equivalent in English for a funny one-liner in my South Indian local dialect. Nah! Google would fail — I was pretty confident. After all, I hadn’t heard that phrase ever since I got out of my village eons ago. As the circle went about in my browser, I thought, I had finally hit it. Then, from nowhere, someone had indeed used that little phrase in the local dialect and had actually tried to translate it. I was stunned. No wonder, Sid researches on Google.
Back in my school days, in the remote corner of Karnataka, my Geography teacher gave us our first glimpse of the word ‘research’. We were 46 children in that classroom . Our teacher unrolled a huge world map in the classroom and pointed to a tiny dot in the map and spoke about the capital of the United States of America. Finally, he asked us, the hapless kids, a question. Hapless, because, until that moment, we actually imagined America to be in a different planet. He challenged us to find out, what DC in the word ‘WASHINGTON DC’ meant. “I will give you a week’s time”, he declared.
The question seemed so simple that I thought I could find the answer in a jiffy. Google wasn’t around and at that time, nobody had heard of a machine called computer. So, we had to look for the answer manually. I remember walking up to the local library. It was a little room where an old librarian sat in a corner. I remember standing in that tiny room wondering, where in the dusty old racks could the answer to the question be hiding. Rows of books stared back at me from the huge shelves and I couldn’t bring myself to as much as touch them. I looked at the old man for guidance, but was too scared to ask him. After spending a few minutes I ran out of that room feeling frustrated because I had no other place to go and look for the answer. After one week, our class was nowhere close to the answer, but I can’t remember how my Geography teacher reacted.
Things are different now I am told the teachers also use Google. As I watch Sid research for his project, I wonder if he ever gets stuck like I did years ago in that tiny room with an overwhelming amount of information.
I like Google and I hate to admit that I am yet to stump it. I even tried if it can answer my most complex question. I typed ‘528th digit of pi’ and it actually threw up the number 4 on my screen!
As I continue my tryst with Google, I realised something funny. The word ‘Google’ can now officially be used as a verb too. It is an accepted terminology. But there is something funnier. I could actually google, what Google couldn’t answer! Don’t believe me? Google it. I just did.
Sudha Subramanian is an independent journalist based in Dubai.