Google Pisses Off Lacanians Too

Jacques Alain-Miller, son-in-law of the great Dr. L himself, on everyone’s favorite increasingly ossified search engine/internet ur-function:

Google is the spider of the Web. It assures in it a metafunction: that of knowing where knowledge is. God doesn’t reply; Google, always, and immediately. One sends it a signal without syntax, very parsimonious: a click, and… bingo! It is the cataract: the ostentatious white of the page blackens suddenly, the void is overturned by an onslaught, succinctness becomes logorrhea.

Everyone’s a winner. Organizing the Very Big Quantity, Google obeys a totalitarian tropism, voracious and digestive. Thus the project of scanning all the books; thus the raids on all the archives: cinema, television, the press; beyond that, the logical target of googlization is the entire universe: the all-seeing gaze skims through the world, desiring everybody’s little units of information. Share with it your varied bits of documentation, and it will put everything in its place-and you yourself. Through this exchange, you will no longer be, for eternity, any more than the sum of your clics. Google, “Big Brother”? How can we not think that? Thus, the necessity for it to pose as an axiom its fundamental kindness.

Is it malicious? What is sure is that it is stupid. If the responses proliferate on the screen, it is because they are mistaken. The initial signal is made of words, and a word does not have a single meaning. Thus, meaning escapes Google, which encodes, but doesn’t decode. It is the word in its stupid materiality that it memorizes. Thus, it is always up to you to find in the haystack of results, the needle that is meaningful to you.

Google would be intelligent if one could compute signification. But no one can. Like a Samson with his hair cut, Google will blindly turn the millstone until the end of time.

Via Lacanian Ink


2 Responses to Google Pisses Off Lacanians Too

  1. l33t h4x0r says:

    What a lot of mental masturbation.

    There’s nothing telling in calling Google a spider. In fact, the search robots that Google “sends out” to sites are called spiders. As they are with any other search engine.

    The terms entered into the search box are no mere words! Only a total noob would make such a statement. They are, in fact, boolean search terms and are as meaningful as they are constructed to be. You can put – how to be an armchair philospher – in the search box, and naturally you’ll get a lot of links to philosophers, armchairs. You might even get what you’re looking for, since google is programmed to recognize syntax to a limited degree.

    If you’re less of a noob, you might try putting your query in quotes. This describes your query as a string that google should search for intact. In that case the search “signal” is only as stupid as the encoder.

    If you’re really not a noob, you could use boolean search terms. “how to be”.an|a.armchair|lazy|noob.philosopher|analyst. Kinda hard to make an argument about how Google doesn’t understand meaning when there is a clear and well-documented way to feed it meaning.

  2. unfashionablylate says:

    Part of the reason behind my posting this was to chuckle at a prominent intellectual bitching about Google through scholarly channels. But in spite of the fuddy-duddyishness, I think JAL’s got some interesting points.

    I understand the mechanics of Google, but I think JAL is right that it’s “stupid” to a degree: whether it’s searching for a word, a string of words, or even syntax, it doesn’t recognize meaning as a person would. It can only comb through language as data, and we ourselves must modify our language for these algorithms that can’t understand a joke or a metaphor. But as you say, “You might even get what you’re looking for.”

    Perhaps JAL’s “noobishness” causes him to overlook another threat of Googlization: how certain sites pay to appear high in search results, a corporate choking and channeling of information at the most popular portal on the net. I have noticed a sharp decline in how useful my search results are; typically I get vendor after vendor offering me the same products, which I didn’t want in the first place.

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