Blues for the Explorer

Recently I was putting the finishing touches on a column for Ed Surge (the one I’ve been writing with Reshan Richards), and my daughter looked over my shoulder and asked, “what does that button do?”

She was pointing to the bottom right corner of my the Google Doc window in which I was composing my text: the word “Explore” had caught her attention.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-1-34-33-pm

We clicked it together, and this happened:

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-1-37-58-pmMy first thought was, “that’s amazing, Google can read what I’ve written, understand it a little bit, and make suggestions about how I might add depth to it by looking at related research.

My second thought was, “that’s horrifying, Google can read what I’ve written, understand it a little bit, and make suggestions about how I might add depth to it by looking at related research.”

My first thought came from marveling at the ways that Google is evolving as a company, and how it is trying to partner with me as a writer, researcher, and thinker.

My second thought came from realizing that, if I rely on Google to make connections for me, it will replace an important part of what I have to offer the world — the connections that I make, based on everything I’ve ever read, written, or seen, along with the serendipity and luck that fuels my writing process.  Indeed, I feel a little bit threatened.  Writing has existed at the core of my identify since I was in 4th grade.  If a machine can make connections that are more interesting, probing, or deft than the ones that I can make, then I will have to find something else to do — and someone else to be.

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