Google Waxes Philosophical, Confuses Everyone

    February 21, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

There’s been a lot of lofty rhetoric effluviating (CAUTION: made-up word) out of Mountain View lately. Vinton Cerf and Eric Schmidt seem to agree that human nature, just like on Earth, makes for rotten digital societies – which is why Larry Page is working on a brain-based algorithm to fix it.

Why do we listen to them? Well, Cerf did sorta invent the Internet; Schmidt runs the most powerful online company on Earth; and Page once made a printer out of Legos – oh, and created the best search engine ever.

We begin this cerebral journey with Cerf’s Mirror of Society model, as quoted by InfoWorld. All the bad stuff that happens on the Web – spamming, phishing, fraud, sexual predation – isn’t technology’s fault. It’s people’s fault. What happens on the Internet is just a reflection of society.

"If you stand in front of a mirror and you don’t like what you see, it does not help to fix the mirror," he said, trying to silence a Michael Jackson ring tone.

Schmidt joins the conversation as if in the same interview over at VoaNews, bemoaning the difficulty of finding accurate information online. On the Web as in life, perception is reality, and again, it’s completely the fault of humans competing to have their message heard.

"Every piece of information on the Internet can be thought of as a move in a game," he said. "You do not like some information – spread some misinformation."

"There might be some businesses who want to affect some outcome, who might spread some misinformation – let us call it ‘bizinformation,’" he said. "All of a sudden, information takes on power and partially false or completely false information is hard to distinguish in this new world."

So why are people, in digital form, so extra nasty online? According to Daniel Goleman, it has something to do with the amygdala, the part of the brain in charge of nastiness, rudeness, and unacceptable impulses regulated by the orbitofrontal cortex, or the empathy center.

In the real world, the orbitofrontal cortex uses things like facial cues and tones of voice to decide how mean or nice to be to someone. Without those visual and aural clues though, the orbitofrontal cortex has nothing to say to the amygdala when it feels like making you a jerk. And so, the "online disinhibition effect," better known as "flaming," occurs.

Okay, I had to tell you that so I could tell you this (transitions are hard): Larry Page and his crew are working on creating algorithms similar to ones used by the human brain.

According to, human DNA is only about 600 megabytes compressed, child’s play for a really good computer scientist. Likewise, Page says the brain’s algorithms are pretty simple and could be replicated.

"We have some people at Google (who) are really trying to build artificial intelligence and to do it on a large scale," he said. "It’s not as far off as people think."

So if we want to stretch it, and we really do want to stretch it, as video and audio and emoticons proliferate, Google could produce the equivalent of a digital orbitofrontal cortex that reminds people to be nicer online. Boom. Morality is restored online and everybody can charge forward chanting "Peace, Love, and Moonpies."

Now if Google can do that, then figuring out the YouTube copyright issue should be easy.

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