One of the questions in the old penny catechism was “Where is God?” And the answer was “God is everywhere.” Today one can replace ‘God‘ with the word ‘Google‘ and the answer would be equally valid.
It’s mind-boggling to see how much Google and similar other virtual online mega-companies have invaded our life. They track our every move, see what we are buying, what we are watching, whom we are texting and what we are posting. Seen from a certain perspective, the ‘Matrix’ vision is not far from reality. We have become binary codes of information in the vast inter-connected ocean called the Internet.
All our devices are seamlessly synced. That’s great but then every device also becomes a tracking device to follow you around and spy on you. I was just checking for train tickets on the website of the National Train Company. A minute later I logged into Facebook and SURPRISE! an ad for a train journey to the same location pops up on my newsfeed. I buy a ticket online and the dates are automatically synced into my Google Calendar. I go on to Amazon and some very bewildering suggestions turn up on the home page. How did they know I was thinking of buying that?
A professor solemnly told us “Whenever you use an online service or program for free, YOU are the product!” It’s true. Each time we agree to the terms and conditions before using a service for free, we sign off all our personal information, contacts, pictures and well, whatever there is to know of us. This information is then sold to advertisers at a good price, so that they can precise target you knowing your interests, attitudes and online shopping habits.
One may say “Well, I can get away from it whenever I want.” Can you? Think about it. Can you completely get away from email, online bookings, shopping, banking etc. You can’t. It’s part and parcel of our lives now. The birth of the internet had brought in a fresh fragrance of hope that we would be finally free of huge multi-national conglomerates, that society would enter a new phase of democratisation in which power would be returned to the individual. Well guess what, online power has slowly but steadily slipped back into the hands of a few mega companies. Statistics show that about 70 percent of all online traffic goes through the top 8 websites and internet services. Go figure.
Apple has created a closed, tightly controlled ecosystem, where you pay to be part of the i-experience. All of us know at least one person who swaps in his/her old iPhone as soon as a new model is launched. We can do perfectly well with a simpler hardware device but an iMac, iPhone, iPod, iWatch have become a status symbol. You need to have one to belong to the new elite ‘social class’. Woe to those poor android users!
Which brings me back to the title of this piece with its divine connotations. Whenever we have a query about something, a priest friend of mine here swishes out his iPhone and says “Let’s ask God Google” He’s not kidding. Isn’t that the first place we go when we want to find initial information? You are more likely today to ask Google ‘How to pray’ than to actually go ask a priest the same question.
Surfing around on the web, I actually came across a website devoted to the ‘Church of Google‘ – I kid you not. (www.thechurchofgoogle.org) It’s gives proofs of why Google is divine, the 10 commandments of Google and the Our Google prayer. Scary! When Nietzsche famously quipped “God is Dead” little did he know that God had only swapped His mystical body for a virtual one. And now God continues to live forever through the eternal swathes of the interconnected web.
Says Alan Cohen, a V.P. of Airespace, a Wi-Fi provider:
”If I can operate Google, I can find anything. And with wireless, it means I will be able to find anything, anywhere, anytime. Which is why I say that Google, combined with Wi-Fi, is a little bit like God. God is wireless, God is everywhere and God sees and knows everything. Throughout history, people connected to God without wires. Now, for many questions in the world, you ask Google, and increasingly, you can do it without wires, too.”
I agree, I’m being a little melodramatic here. But this virtual freedom of being able to do so many things online, of being able to transcend my physical and time limitations actually scares me a little. I feel caged. And that makes me realise even more that no matter how much technological progress may advance, only the One True God will be able to truly give me freedom and happiness. Happiness is not to have more, it is to have less.
God gives us and loves us freely, no strings attached, no conditions applied. He does not force us to hit the ‘I Accept’ button before we can ask something of Him. He died for all of us equally, not only for those who had bought the ‘Premium’ package. Every aspect of His Love is accessible to us free of charge; He doesn’t charge a single penny nor does He sell us off to the highest bidder. Ask yourself: are all these devices that you have, the power of being perpetually connected online – is it freeing you? Does it make you feel lighter and happy? Or do you feel more burdened trying to keep up?
I’m not trying to demonise Google. It’s just a company. But we need to be careful before getting sucked up completely into its matrix. Or of Apple for that matter. Or any other social network. Don’t let it control you. The machine defines you only as much as allow it to.
Scientists are still studying the psychological effects of being ‘always on – always connected’. The effects are not immediately obvious and apparent. It’s more hypnotic and subliminal. I call it the ‘Kaa-effect‘ from the evil snake in the Jungle Book who hypnotises Mowgli.
One of my friends was trying to mess with Siri (Apple’s virtual humanoid). He asked her “Siri, do you believe in God?” She replied “I recommend that you ask your spiritual questions to someone more qualified to comment. A poor computational knowledge engine like me, no matter how powerful, is not capable of providing a simple answer to that question.”
If you have some pressing questions to ask about your life and faith, ask your parents, your spouse, your best friend, or your priest….Ask God! Don’t ask Google. Google is mortal like the creatures who made it.
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