Google God

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Let me just say first off that I’m a big fan of personal technology. I got my first iPhone in 2009, I’m now on my third. It’s my primary computer, communicator, notebook, word processor, camera. It’s basically an extension of my hand. I’ve written plays on it, created and sent Christmas cards. I’m writing this post on it right now.

I have no problem with Google Glass, about which I read an article in yesterday’s New York Times. I will not be one of its detractors. I’ve often wished for a device that could record exactly what I see, capture my thoughts, implement my desires. I’m not afraid of losing the distinction between the physical human being and the devices that support and enable that being. There’s been some fuss about how Google Glass will further the reach of recording technology while making it harder to know that you are bring monitored. That already happens: in the UK and probably other places CCTV cameras roll through the streets capturing everyone, not to mention the myriad of cameras shooting a person from every angle on any given corner in Manhattan.

There have been protestations from businesses, from individuals, who feel this is too much of an intrusion into their public privacy. In reaction to these protestations, Google’s chief executive in 2009 said:

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

In saying, Google is taking a moral stance on personal behavior, on that which we do in the perceived privacy of our own lives. Google sets the bar pretty high. It says: don’t do anything you’re ashamed of, don’t do anything you wouldn’t think better of in the light of day. It’s saying: in a Google age there can be no absolution from misteps, from poor decisions. Google is saying: do not sin.

It’s not possible, Google.

We can’t hold ourselves to the standard of “shouldn’t.” We know we can’t, because we try and fail every day. I shouldn’t have that ice cream cone, next glass of wine, shouldn’t stare too long at an attractive pedestrian, roll my eyes behind someone’s back, shouldn’t adjust my bra when I think no one can see, have that cigarette even though I said I quit, jaywalk.

Whatever your struggle, Google says fight harder. Google says there’s no second chances, and the permanent record will be complete: credit scores, emails to old lovers, secret fetishes, jeans size, and what you were reading yesterday while heading home from work, will all be part of your whole, a whole that cannot be decided upon or edited by you. You can’t choose which of your faces to present to the world. You can’t wake up and say: today I’ll put my best foot forward, I’ll let yesterday die with yesterday.

Even God doesn’t hold us to this standard. God forgives, Google doesn’t. God keeps our secrets, he knows what that confidence means to us; Google spills it to the world. Yet we trust Google more than we trust God. Maybe it’s because Google presents us with cute videos and gadgets, is on our screens, reads and interprets our words, and will soon be driving our thoughts, if it isn’t already.

Who needs prayer when you can Google it?

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