May contain traces of humour.
The Googs are everywhere now. You will see them, walking down the street, their eyes transfixed by a small glowing screen that tells them where to go. You will find them on the internet, regurgitating claims they have lifted out of search engines. You will find them at the heart of every contemporary political non-movement (for nothing moves in politics any more), despising all the non-Googs who are wrong and evil and must be destroyed... the Googs are the newest form of life to pretend to be human, as we all have done at some point in our lives. The question we might ask is: are Googs good humans...?
When Donna Haraway wrote in 1985 that we were "always already cyborgs", her point was largely ignored, despite the popularity of her famous essay. It is a theme I put right at the heart of my book The Virtuous Cyborg: if we are beings comprised not only of our biological bodies but also of the network of technologies we are embedded within, then we owe it to ourselves to ask the question: what would make us a good cyborg? But 'good' has ceased to do the philosophical work it once did... we are not interested in being good, becoming good, discovering or understanding the good. The Googs have made it all so much simpler: either you are good or you aren't - and if you are good, then you can do anything you like and it's okay, because you are automatically good as long as you're a Goog.
To be a 'good cyborg' is to fulfil our human capabilities within the network of things that we exist within. Today, these networks are vast - you do not get through a day without being interconnected with billions of other cyborgs in the global network we call the internet. But human existence was not always this way. A peasant in Middle Ages Europe subsisted in a situation with just a few dozen objects, most of them farm or domestic equipment... a cooking pot, a flint and steel, a hoe, a plough, a harness. Over the centuries, the networks became more complicated - by the twentieth century, these connectivities were global, and it became almost impossible to be a human without being embedded in a network spanning the planet. Yet it becomes harder and harder to say what is good the greater the reach of the network of things connected to the human being considered.
For me personally, the quintessential 'good cyborg' is represented by the librarians. Not necessarily those who are paid to maintain a library (although almost all the professional librarians I've met have been good cyborgs) but someone who maintains a library in any unspecified medium. I am partial to books, but a library of videos, or of music, or of games, or of visual artworks... everything counts when it comes to libraries. It is the very act of maintaining the library that gives such people a shot at being good cyborgs, at least in the sense that maintaining a library is a means of showing the excellences of being human. And one of the reasons that I can say this is that libraries are a sign of human flourishing, they are in some respects the epitome of human culture.
The library is such a potent symbol of what is good in humanity's relationship with technology, of our biological relationship with the non-biological, because the library has its own excellences. It has its own order that is tailored to its purposes. And if it is truly a library, rather than say a private treasure horde, it is something that is shared with others. Thus the DJs, who I genuinely believe are among the greatest of the good cyborgs, maintain a library of music that they share with others when they perform. True, they are typically paid for this service, but a professional librarian does not cease to be a good cyborg simply because they are paid for their job. And I have never met a DJ who was so miserly with their library that they did not manage to share their music with those around them irrespective of the exchange of money. One way or another, good libraries exist to be shared.
The library cyborg is the antithesis of the Goog, despite the fact the Goog does in fact spend much of their time being led around online libraries and archives. Every time you Google the answer to a question (even if you Google it on Bing, or Yahoo, or even Qwant), you are a Goog and nothing more, for 'Google' is the verb for which 'Goog' is the noun. Google the company is nothing more than the largest profit centre for the network connecting billions of Googs on our planet... You and I are all Googs from time to time, but nobody is a Goog all the time (thankfully). You still have to sleep, after all, and Silicon Valley does not yet know how to monetise our dreams, although I'm sure someone is working on that - and that millions of Googs will sign up for it as soon as it is available.
Alas, the Goog is not a good cyborg, because the Goog is not a good human, and to be a good cyborg is to be a good human despite being a cyborg... Technology is not just a means to an end, it is always also a potential hindrance to human flourishing, a subtle point that we have completely lost sight of today. To be a 'good Goog' is far, far simpler than the immense challenges entailed in being a good cyborg or a good human. All you have to do is to accept the beliefs of all the other Googs, the beliefs that you will be fed whenever you Google a question. Those answers are the true beliefs of all Googs. You either accept whichever answers the machine feeds you, or you think for yourself, and therefore cease to be a Goog.
This is why the library cyborg is the antithesis of the Goog: the library cyborg invariably knows how to think. Maintaining a library requires you to think, although I confess a fear that some librarians might simply be rule-followers, executing the Gospel according to Dewey Decimal, or what have you. Still, all the librarians I have met have been excellent, but perhaps I have merely been fortunate. Perish the thought, but there might already be people employed as librarians who are merely Googs pretending to by library cyborgs....
Pity the Goog, for it cannot think for itself, it requires the internet to tell it what to think. It is in the same sorry state as those people in centuries past who professed their Christianity, or their devoutness to some other creed, or their patronage to the Emperor or what have you, but were really just glad that somebody else was doing the thinking for them. You cannot be a good Christian, a good Muslim, a good Hindu, a good Jew, a good Rastafari and not think, because any and all of these traditions expect you to pursue your excellences as a human, and that necessarily includes thinking. We associate religion with non-thinking for the same reason we mistake being a Goog for being clever: we are not very good at being human, or at being clever. We wouldn't know most human excellences even if we witnessed them... although perhaps if there was a video of "Top Ten Human Excellences" we might have a slim chance of noticing, but only if it was three minutes or shorter.
The Goog is pitiable because it is intolerable smug with the thought of how clever it is! For it can get the answer to any question, it just types it into that little box - et voila, answers! Look how clever I am, getting answers that anyone can get. But a library cyborg does not produce answers in this way... a library cyborg has to have the knowledge to get the answers - the knowledge of how the answers can be derived, or the knowledge to discern the legitimacy of those who claim to have the answer. Without such knowledge, you cannot be clever in any meaningful sense. You can only be one of those empty vessels that make the most noise - and oh, the noise the Googs make! It is deafening.
Please do not hold it against them. The Googs don't know any better... all their answers come from the search box. It's practically the twenty first century's version of 'only following orders': all the brutality of dogma dressed up as the bliss of ignorance... responsibility, digitally devolved to the newest higher authority. "Forgive them, Google, for they know not what they do." Ah, but Google is the Googiest of all the Googs. It takes smart people to manufacture ignorance on such a grand scale. It takes faith in both blunt technology and blind ideology to choose a path that prevents human flourishing and declare it the only way to be good. And Google is only the most successful of the Goog-making tech companies.
I want to give them a chance, truly I do... I listen to what they have to say. But I can find what they are going to say the same way they do, by typing it into a search box, so what is there to listen to? I want to find the good in what they do... but when all they do is align with the ideology of the search engine, what good is there to find...? We cannot even judge their ability to be a 'good Goog', because it seems readily apparent that a Goog cannot express any excellences of its own. It borrows technological abilities and then spuriously claims these stolen capabilities as its own. That's why Googs have to own all the latest digital toys... it is the only way one Goog can distinguish itself (however briefly) from the identical capabilities of all the other Googs.
We are all Googs now, alas. There's no escaping it. We all feel clever because we can type a question into a search box, or watch a video, or regurgitate dogma. And so we all condemn traditional religions for having got it wrong - they were looking for answers in a book, in a tradition, in virtue, in honour, in family, in a community... but the answers were never there, the Googs assure us. They were in that blank search box, waiting for you to type your question. All the questions are already known to the Googs, and all the answers are already prescribed. There is nothing left to do, but submit to the one true way, the way of the Goog, the path of utter technological dependence.