NEW YORK – In the not-so-distant future, students will be able to graduate from high school without ever touching a book. Twenty years ago, they could graduate from high school without ever using a computer. In only a few decades,amp#160;computer technology and the Internet have transformed the core principles of information, knowledge, and education.
Indeed, today you can fit more books on the hard disk of your laptop computer than in a bookstore carrying 60,000 titles. The number of Web pages on the Internet is rumored to have exceeded 500 billion, enough to fill 10 modern aircraft carriers with the equivalent number of 500-page, one-pound books.
Such analogies help us visualize the immensity of the information explosion and ratify the concerns that come with it. Web search engines are the only mechanism with which to navigate this avalanche of information, so they should not be mistaken for an optional accessory, one of the buttons to play with, or a tool to locate the nearest pizza store. Search engines are the single most powerful distribution points of knowledge, wealth, and yes, misinformation.
When we talk about Web search, the first name that pops up is, of course, Google. It is not far-fetched to say that Google made the Internet what it is today. It shaped a new generation of people who are strikingly different from their parents. Baby boomers might be the best placed to appreciate this, since they experienced Rock 'n’ Roll as kids and Google as parents.