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Still Searching: Bing, Advertising, “Information,” and an awful decade

June 19, 2009

I originally loved the Bing ads. They tapped into a strong emotion: my dissatisfaction with the self-satisfaction of the “information age.”

We have glibly tossed around the abstraction “information.”  (I do mean “we.” I am complicit in this.)

In theory, information enlightens us.  In fact, we’ve created a wasteland of porn, Gong show-quality YouTube videos, sometimes grubby commerce, strings of hateful and sub-literate blog comments, rumors, and mediocre opining.

As we swam in all this “information,” those of us in America made a whole bunch of awful decisions.

When the Microsoft manifesto commercial tapped into this discrepancy—vast information, crap decisions—they struck a deep chord. Advertisers have tapped into deep emotions before. Nike sells shoes, but the subtext of its ads is “sport is religion.”

The problem is: you aren’t tapping into an emotion. You are highlighting a problem. You then need to solve the problem. Bing doesn’t, at least not in any way I can discern, although it does have some cool features.

In fact, no search engine can solve the problem of bad decision making.. Search engines cannot give us wisdom, experience, ethics,  rigor, or a tradition of fiduciary responsibility.

That is what educational systems are for. That is what cultures are for.

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