Google Will Force Us To Redefine Humanity (As Information)


I recently published a post about what I call the “Linn Effect,” which occurs when technological innovation creates more problems than it solves. That post came to mind as I thought about the latest challenge that Google is facing in Europe: giving people the ability to erase all or part of their digital history — forever. Robert Herritt, writing in Pacific Standard, lays out the background to how Google came to this situation:

UnknownIn 2010, a Spanish lawyer named Mario Costeja González appealed to Spain’s national Data Protection Agency to have an embarrassing auction notice for his repossessed home wiped from a newspaper website and de-indexed from Google’s search results. Because the financial matter had been cleared up years earlier, González argued, the fact that the information continued to accompany searches of his name amounted to a violation of privacy.

The Spanish authorities ruled that the search link should be…

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One response to “Google Will Force Us To Redefine Humanity (As Information)

  • Steve Wilson (@Steve_Lockstep)

    This is all very interesting but there’s a risk in over-complicating Darwinism (or making it overly mystical) by referencing an “exchange of information” between organism and environment. Arguably the information content of the genome increases as species evolve, but where exactly does information flow back into the environment? Where is stored when the environment has no genome? Further, the information content of genes is not straightforward to measure. as demonstrated by the paradox that organisms vastly simpler than humans have similar numbers of genes.

    Darwinism is one of the world’s all-time most powerful (and dangerous) ideas, as shown by Daniel Dennett and numerous other straightforward writers. It’s a very elegant idea, self-contained, powerfully predictive, and was fully articulated and proven decades before the advent of information theory. There is very little metaphysics in Darwin. So information angle seems sueprfluous to evolution, but it is interesting and I will continue to ponder.

    On a more pragmatic point I am afraid that the post at the outset misrepresents the European Right to be Forgotten case. The RTBF ruling does not “[give] people the ability to erase all or part of their digital history — forever”. There is no erasure of the raw data from which search results are derived – no erasure at all, let alone forever. Instead, search operators are required (if an RTBF application is successful) to block certain results from appearing in the search stream.

    A nice summary has been posted recently by the Hong Kong privacy commissioner:

    And I’ve blogged about it here:

    Briefly in my view, RTBF is simply about adjusting the weighting of search results. Search is the result of secretive big data processes operated by Google and others as part of their advertising businesses. They already apply their own covert weightings to shift search results up or down the stream; search priorities change day to day, and they vary according to the history of the user’s Internet usage. Google’s AI algorithms are forever making automatic judgments about what a searcher is probably interested in. So now Google has to add another consideration to its search calculations; it has to block some results if an RTBF application is successful.

    The “truth” is still out there.


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