Google's Zeitgeist 2012
Oct. 22, 2012
by Mark Ollig

Zeitgeist means “the spirit of the times.”

Google believes this word and definition are fitting to describe the program it started to share global search information and trends.

The term Zeitgeist is defined in the online Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as “the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era.”

Google’s Zeitgeist events are a series of informal gatherings of the world’s top intellectuals and leaders.

“Hear perspectives from industry pioneers and states people, renowned writers and bloggers, scientists and artists, activists and musicians. Learn from progressive minds, and discuss topics that influence the world around us,” is how Google describes Zeitgeist.

I watched a series of videos from this year’s Zeitgeist 2012 event on YouTube, which is owned by Google. This collection is called ZeitgeistMinds.

Afterwards, I thought of the Bob Dylan song, “The times, they are a-changing.”

The spirit of the times, even the current pulse of the nation, can be somewhat understood through the accumulation and analysis of commonly searched themes or specific word search queries Google processes.

We are able to access search engines via the 6 billion smart mobile phones being used in a world with a population of 7 billion.

What was once thought of as science fiction is today commonplace. I refer to when we are holding our Android, iPhone, or other smart mobile device. We literally have access in the palm of our hand, a portal we can go through to discover seemingly inexhaustible knowledge.

Through search engines accessed on our mobile devices, we can instantly view documents, images, statistics, and video libraries.

Using our mobile devices, we are immediately sharing with the world our own original content via social media interaction.

We are capable of reporting and commenting on news stories and events as they happen with not only those in our own country, but with other countries, societies, and cultures around the world.

This quote sums it up nicely: “Imagine going from no information to the entire world’s information with one device,” said Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google during a recent Zeitgeist sales conference in Paradise Valley, AZ.

Google’s annual Zeitgeist report discloses what caught the world’s attention during the past year, by ranking Google searches according to our interests at particular moments in time.

The Zeitgeist conferences talk about technology, what people are searching for on Google, and how these search results can determine the current mood of the not only this country, but that of the world.

Zeitgeist conferences interpret how our Google searches affect our social, economic, political, and cultural surroundings.

At the beginning of his talk, Schmidt asked the audience “How many of you have used Google in the last 24 hours?”

Many hands went up. Schmidt responded, “I just wanted to see that; it made me feel better.”

The audience laughed.

He then went on to talk seriously about how technology and intelligent networks are changing the manner in which we are able to communicate with each other.

Schmidt said we are now able to converse with others speaking different languages using a technology called Universal Language Translation.

He took a smart phone out of his pocket, held it up, and said, “How many disagreements in society; wars, conflicts, prejudices, and so forth, have ultimately been because people could not communicate?”

He then talked about how by using Google technology (and others), we can speak into our phone (he was using an Android phone) and have the language we use automatically translated (via the power of the intelligent network servers in the background) to the desired language on the other user’s phone.

“It’s extraordinary. This is really magic!,” exclaimed Schmidt.

The 1960s science fiction “Star Trek” universal translator device has become a reality.

The talk continued with how technology can help solve certain global difficulties, such as with education, getting help to small businesses, and improving energy self-efficiency.

Schmidt talked about how all the routine things we do during the day will eventually be handled seamlessly through various forms of artificial intelligence.

He also talked about a whole new generation of robots that will respond to gesture recognition, and how these robots will represent us.

“I don’t like to stay out at night, so I’ll send my robot to the party and [it] can represent me,” mused Schmidt. “He’ll have a good time and report to me in the morning,”

The audience laughed, but Schmidt got serious again and said, “You think I’m kidding? There are companies building these special robots right now, and they are uncannily powerful.”

It has been 15 years since the google.com domain name was registered.

And ever since Google went online, the number of folks searching for information by “Googling it” has soared.

Of course, Google is not the only search engine on the Internet; in fact, Google was not even the first search engine of note.

In 1990, Archie became the first practical search engine (which yours truly used) on the Internet.

Created in 1990 by Alan Emtage, Archie was originally called “archives,” but was shortened to Archie.

Whichever search engine or method of technology we use to access information, let’s use it wisely in order to make for a healthier Zeitgeist throughout our world.

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