How Google is Making the Climate War Worse

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I am a huge fan of Google. And the company has done far more than any other company to help solve the problems of climate change by investing in game-changing renewable innovation, and even providing an education on climate change, directly. However, it’s core mission – finding stuff for you – is turning out to hamper progress in a weird way.

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Google tries very hard to please you by finding you more stuff just like the other stuff you clicked on last time. That is the essence of google’s great cleverness. But that very brilliance is becoming more and more damaging to the shared view out to an objective fact-based world.

Who hasn’t gotten exasperated with someone else’s ignorance about climate change? Haven’t you finally said: “look, you can just google it!”

But there turns out to be one big problem with just “googling” it. It depends on who you are.

So if last time you looked up climate change and chose to open something by, say, Marc Morano, then Senator Inhofe, and then the Drudge Report, which all discredit climate change, Google thinks, “oh, this reader is searching for the political rebuttals to climate change,” and next time, more of its top suggestions for your search will be skewed even further to the political, non-science treatment.

As you keep heading further into la-la land, Google is there, holding your hand, assuring you that indeed, this is the objective, google-able truth. Two people with different search histories get two entirely different sets of google “facts” for the identical search terms.

The problem is that science-based types, who click on the fact-laden science-based pdfs from the EPA and reports from the WRI and studies from NOAA – and then get more of these kinds of results; assume that’s what everyone sees when they just “google” it, but there is no one objective science-based google.

Google has become like a good but unobtrusive butler, that always obsequiously aims to please, by always giving you more and more of what you liked last time. Ultimately, as a result, we are now all living in what we believe to be the objective, self-evidently google-able truth. And we are not.

Climate scientists keep turning out more and better climate science, and scratch their heads at the apparent lack of effect on “rational” hearts and minds, but it is simply not being found by the other side, because googling it turns up the opposition. While scientists wring their hands over the problem that they are not communicating well enough, there is nothing they can do differently.

Together with the outright (deliberate) propaganda by the 1% against the 99%, Google’s (accidental) amplification of that propaganda, a mere accident of our technological history, is fueling part of the rage of this internet age. The civil war on science it amplifies – even by accident –  is a danger to our survival, as it saps our commitment to change before it’s too late.

Susan Kraemer@Twitter
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