Douglas Coupland, Artist & Author – The Story of Search – Clip


My name is Doug Coupland and I am Artist-In-Residence to Google Cultural Institute in Paris Why am I here this morning? Well, it’s this. We’re going to ask, what is the most important question of our time I know the answer, and the answer is this. ‘What are we actually searching for?’ The book is one of a few projects we’re doing at the Cultural Institute The book came about because most people really are curious about, what are people searching for? What are they looking for We are hunter gatherers Looking for answers to questions is part of our DNA. So, what I suggested was, ‘Okay within the constricts of your data system what can we do to allow us to look for search patterns?’ I came up with the idea of choosing 1,000 words and offering them to the Search people and then they would come back with the answers to what people had been searching for but, before they came to me, they had to go through SafeSearch, then staff had to go through them to remove anything that your child might find weird and we did this search. It was the month of February this year. Globally God knows how many billions of searches all English language, and well, we’ve got Search, the book and to my mind, it is the closest you can come to being on the internet while actually reading what is technically a book One of the weird textures of living in 2015 is that we’ve never actually been smarter but we’ve never felt stupider and that’s why I invented the word ‘smupid’. I actually think the collective human IQ has been rising generally over the last twenty years so that by 1995 standards, the current average IQ is about 103 but of course we all feel like it’s 97, and there’s this other corollary word with ‘smupid’, it’s called ‘Stuart’ ‘Stuart’ means ‘I’m really, really smart I just don’t have Wi-Fi access at the moment.’ Now, the Internet. Dr Internet. The Internet is the doctor for billions of people You take a word like ‘symptom’, you put it in, and you can see pretty much what’s going on in all the bodies on Planet Earth. If you take a word, in this case it’s the word ‘theft’, and you plug it into the system, what are you going to find? What you find is that Grand Theft Auto completely ate up the entire ‘theft’ category. Sometimes with ‘secret’, Victoria’s Secret products ate up the word ‘secret’ It just kind of happens sometimes ‘Is Google an oracle?’ Some people treat it that way Some people actually look at Google as sort of an omniscient entity and they ask it questions in the form of a question. Here for example, you can see these This is my favourite one of all, ‘How long is a 5k?’ Subtle, but, we’re all people, we all know what it’s like to be at your laptop or computer going through this kind of mood we’re seeing right here What happens is people put in this kind of question. They don’t just put them in a few times These questions, there’s like hundreds of thousands of times these questions come through. You realise that someone is at a keyboard somewhere actually typing this in, and they had to be going through this to make them ask this question and I think that’s sort of a wonderful inspiring thing. People are always surprising and those are the first capital letters you’ll see in the entire presentation Search is always done in lower case only. I would like to thank Google for having me here today and for giving me such a great gig at the Cultural Institute in Paris. Thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure to be here.

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