What You Can Do That Google Can’t
This summer, Google bragged about its latest generation of server technology: “From Firehose, our first in-house datacenter network, ten years ago to our latest-generation Jupiter network, we’ve increased the capacity of a single datacenter network more than 100x. Our current generation — Jupiter fabrics — can deliver more than 1 Petabit/sec of total bisection bandwidth. To put this in perspective, such capacity would be enough for 100,000 servers to exchange information at 10Gb/s each, enough to read the entire scanned contents of the Library of Congress in less than 1/10th of a second.”
When I read this, the first thing that came to mind was a question: To what end?
What does it matter if Google’s servers could process the entire contents of the Library of Congress? Google’s servers can’t apply that content. They can scan the content, and run algorithms to analyze it, but the servers can’t, in spite of what Google claims, read the contents of the Library of Congress.
Reading a text requires consciousness with which to interpret, and to react, not just in terms of data processing, but in terms of meaning. Interpreting meaning requires subjectivity.
Reading is not, despite what teacher lingo would have us believe, as simple as decoding. It is an experience. It isn’t as simple as receiving a code and the. obeying it. Reading is about having one’s imagination provoked.
Google’s servers can decode the contents of the Library of Congress, but they can’t read it. We human beings can’t read the entirety of the contents of the Library of Congress, but we have the power to do something else that Google’s servers can’t do. We can read something in the Library of Congress – a piece of proposed legislation, perhaps – and then decide to act out of inspiration from what we have read.
So what if I take one billion times longer to grapple with a document from the Library of Congress than a server from Google does? It’s what happens after we are done reading that counts the most.