I read Larry Moran’s What’s in Your Genome?: 90% of Your Genome Is Junk this week — it’s a truly excellent book, everyone should read it, and I’ll be making a more thorough review once I get a little time to breathe again. Basically, though, he makes an interdisciplinary case for the sloppiness of our genome, and it’s all that evidence that we should be giving our biology students from day one.
Anyway, I ran into a similar story online. Everything accumulates junk, from your genome to my office to Google. Cory Doctorow explains how search engines are choking in their own filth.
The internet is increasingly full of garbage, much of it written by other confident habitual liar chatbots, which are now extruding plausible sentences at enormous scale. Future confident habitual liar chatbots will be trained on the output of these confident liar chatbots, producing Jathan Sadowski’s “Habsburg AI”:
But the declining quality of Google Search isn’t merely a function of chatbot overload. For many years, Google’s local business listings have been terrible. Anyone who’s tried to find a handyman, a locksmith, an emergency tow, or other small businessperson has discovered that Google is worse than useless for this. Try to search for that locksmith on the corner that you pass every day? You won’t find them – but you will find a fake locksmith service that will dispatch an unqualified, fumble-fingered guy with a drill and a knockoff lock, who will drill out your lock, replace it with one made of bubblegum and spit, and charge you 400% the going rate (and then maybe come back to rob you):
Google is clearly losing the fraud/spam wars, which is pretty awful, given that they have spent billions to put every other search engine out of business. They spend $45b every year to secure exclusivity deals that prevent people from discovering or using rivals – that’s like buying a whole Twitter every year, just so they don’t have to compete:
I’m thinking I should advertise Myers Spider Removal Service on Google, and then I respond to calls by showing up, collecting a few spiders, bring them back to my lab, and increase their numbers a thousand-fold, which I then return to the house in the dead of night. Then they call me again.
Hey, it’s a business model.
The comparison of Google’s junk to our genome’s junk falls apart pretty quickly, though, because your cells have mechanisms to silence the expression of garbage, while Google is instead motivated to increase expression of junk, because capitalism.