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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Look It Up and Shut Up

Look It Up and Shut Up

There is no doubt about it; Google is destroying the art of barroom conversation. Thank God for Google. Bury it in a shallow grave and let’s move on with our lives.

A TV newscast on above the bar runs a feature on pandas at the Atlanta zoo.

“Pandas aren’t bears; they are in the rodent family.”
“We’re talking about ‘panda bears’ right?”
“It’s a misnomer. Anteaters are bears. Who would have guessed that?”
“Don’t change the subject. Pandas aren’t rodents.”
“They’re vegetarians.”
“Bears are omnivorous. Pandas just evolved into strict vegetarianism because they’re lazy.”
“I’m telling you, they aren’t in the ursidae family.”
“So you’re saying they’re rats? They’re six feet tall.”
“They are more like raccoons.”
“So they belong to the varmint family?”
“There is no varmint family outside of The Beverly Hillbillies, moron.”
“I’m being called a moron by someone who thinks pandas are rats.”

The TV shows a panda frolicking in the snow. A sigh settles over the bar like a foam head on a well-poured Guinness.

“You have to admit, they are cute.”
“A lot cuter than rats.”

Someone else at the bar has had enough of this happy hour drivel that is trying to pass itself off as conversation. They go over to the server station and query ‘panda’ on Google and the argument is mercifully ended.

Sports trivia arguments are shot off at the knees before they can even begin to take flight. Barry Bonds’ homerun count is spared the wishful thinking of a group of hostile detractors. It is only a few keystrokes away from undeniable accuracy. Seconds later someone finds a Web page that outlines the career trajectories of all current major league players and who among them could potentially break Hank Aaron’s homerun record. Google has become the most annoyingly knowledgeable sports geek ever to inhabit a barstool. Everyone hates the new guy but no one has the guts to challenge his sports acumen. Google is both empowering and emasculating.

Arguments over politics are buried under an avalanche of Web searches supporting both sides of every issue. Under Google’s reign of factual terror fistfights have dwindled but bar flies run the risk of being bored to death reading budget reports and trade deficit figures.

The other bar conversation taboo, religion, meets a similar horrible death on the search engine pyre. A discussion about the existence of a higher being devolves into a competition over which word will garner the most Google hits: “God” or “Atheism.” Man’s destiny has been relinquished to technology in a manner that even Isaac Asimov could never have envisioned.

Personal opinions are scuttled like so many empty rocket fuel stages as conversation flies to stratospheric lows of Google quantifiable dialogue. In a modern twist to the old “if a tree falls in the forest” philosophical quandary, we now question the existence of any bit of knowledge that can’t be found on the internet. I’m not ready to agree that cogito ergo sum but if you query it you come up with 681,000 hits.

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