Just Because Google Exists Doesn't Mean You Should Stop Asking People Things

If you spend any amount of time online you’re probably very familiar with the above website, “Let Me Google That For You.” LMGTFY is a super smug and hilarious site built for those sick of “all those people that find it more convenient to bother you with their question rather than google it for themselves.

As all of us know, it is super annoying when your co-worker or worse boss sends you an email (!) asking an easily google-able question, therefore making you google the answer to send back and wasting your and their precious time. Granted.

The issue is, just like cell phones have made it easier to forget phone numbers, “google” as verb is now a replacement for the word and action “think.” The search engine has become such a stand-in repository for human knowledge that it has, among other things, compromised the entire genre of games based on trivia.

Consider the example of how Google put an end to the “Phone A Friend” lifeline on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”;

“Because of Google,” Mecurio said. “Everyone would call their friend and the friend would start Googling to get the answer. The contestant would be like, ‘Hey Joe, aspirin. A-S-P-I-R-I-N.’ We could hear them typing on their keyboard!”

Google has basically become an extension of our brain, the epitome of Steve Jobs’ “bicycle for our minds.” Twice this week I have asked questions that would be better suited to a human rather than an search engine algorithm and both times I’ve been met with a “just Google it”-esque response.

One of those inquiries was about directions to a local restaurant and the Google Maps walking directions and the directions I needed to get there safely while walking and biking were two very different things (yes, I know about Google Biking directions, still unavailable on the iPhone). I ended up getting lost in the rain because in the mist I couldn’t see the very narrow bridge across the 101 freeway that the Google Maps directions indicated.

Google is not omniscient. It doesn’t understand that the shouting coming from next door is probably a faster and more importantly more viscerally satisfying indicator of whether the SF Giants just won the NL Championship Series than any keywords I could search. There are countless examples of “Google fail” (available, yes, through Google) that are constant reminders of how the service cannot account for all the intricacies and subtleties of the human experience.

And while it’s great to have access to an index of the largest compilation of information humanity has ever seen at my literal fingertips, I’m going to continue to ask people things like, “What’s the best place to get pizza in San Francisco?” or “How do you complete this function on Excel?,” even if it is on forums like Quora.

How do you think Google got all that information in the first place?