Saturday, January 13, 2007

"Dear Google: What is the Meaning of Life?"

Much has been made of the impact of the internet on Communist China. The implied assumption of most who celebrate the introduction of the internet and the growth in access is that information will undermine the Party, which will lose its monopolistic voice. Once people get online, they will be exposed to real freedom and succumb to the democratic virus.

Sure, maybe. I suppose one of the best ways to gauge what the Chinese people are getting from the internet is to see what they are asking it about: the Chinese website Baidu has compiled a list of the most popular searches in China. While I hope that the internet will in fact spread truth and freedom, I also suspect that most people have more mundane concerns. I figured a list of search terms would feature some Chinese spin on "Britney Spears," and "porn," and maybe even "democracy." I found instead a list of questions that are more personal, basic and much more profound. The usual "how can I lose weight and make more money" stuff is there, of course, but others on the list were more touching:

Why are we alive?
Why does my hair fall out?
Why do we love?
Why get married?
How to build a harmonious society?
What is happiness?
Should I continue living?

It's interesting to note how search terms can vary from culture to culture. Are the Chinese just more reflective and contemplative than the average American? Is there something in their soul that has so absorbed collectivist thinking that "How to build a harmonious society" would actually be among the top search terms?

By the way, here's Yahoo's top searches for 2006:
  1. Britney Spears
  2. WWE
  3. Shakira
  4. Jessica Simpson
  5. Paris Hilton
  6. American Idol
  7. Beyonce Knowles
  8. Chris Brown
  9. Pamela Anderson
  10. Lindsay Lohan
No, that's not the celebrity top ten. That's the top ten.

Google has a corner of its universe called the Zeitgeist that tracks weekly what the top search inputs are. Google's US tops for 2006 are:
  1. bebo
  2. myspace
  3. world cup
  4. metacafe
  5. radioblog
  6. wikipedia
  7. video
  8. rebelde
  9. mininova
  10. wiki
Google also tracks search terms by country. An interesting read. No surprise to find Britney on so many searches around the globe, sadly.


At 3:20 PM, Blogger bonsta looga said...

If you are looking for the meaning to life the universe and everything we think we can offer you some answers. None of which will be forty-two. All you have to do is open up to the Gnosis Energy.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

Put it in an energy drink, and maybe I'll open it. Thanks.

At 4:31 AM, Blogger dorsey said...

Hmm... vodka & gnostic...with a twist.

At 9:00 PM, Blogger shelly said...

But until that happens, the answer to the question of the meaning of life will still be 42. Right? ;)


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