Google vs. Humans

Greetings. There are many days when I worry that Google has become the “de facto” source of all knowledge. Students, including our own children, use it as the most essential “go to” place in doing homework assignments. They also use it as an easy first stop for answering most of the essential questions that arise in the rest of their lives including finding out about the best new artists, the latest movies, and things to do. Adults use it as a quick reference for insight on products and services, and to get referrals for the best neighborhoods to live in, the best schools to send their kids to, the best vacations to take, the best places to dine, and the best doctors to use. And companies of all shapes and sizes turn to it as the quickest and best way to research customers, competitors, and even prospective employees. Not that all the world’s information is owned by Google, but for most of us it has become the principal gateway for finding out about stuff that matters.

At the expense of humans.

Now I’m sure that there are humans at Google…very smart humans…but I’ve rarely had the pleasure to talk with them.

Remember the “epic” battle in 2011 between IBM’s Watson supercomputer and Ken Jennings, the exceedingly smart (or should we say “trivial” in a good sense) Jeopardy champion who had won on this gameshow an amazing 74 straight times? It was a battle to see if a computer was smarter at trivia than a well-versed human. Well Google has taken it a step further. Rendering all of us humans as somewhat deficient providers of knowledge.

And that has interesting implications for all of us.

Not that I find Google to be unhelpful. And, truth be told, I use it a lot of the time. But I’d like to think that I use it most often to find remarkable people and ideas to connect with and that it is simply the start of a process of being curious, learning new things, and then making new connections so I can start meaningful conversations with actual humans that increase my understanding, stretch my thinking, and enable inspiring collaborations.

Because in an era when all of us tend to rely on the internet and Google for more and more guidance, I still believe that real sparks and breakthroughs happen best when we challenge ourselves to engage new people…especially people with ideas, perspectives, training, and life experiences that are very different than our own.


We win in business and in life when we get beyond the world that sits conveniently at our fingertips and connect with others in new and compelling ways.


Books: “What On Earth Evolved?”

Greetings.  When it comes to the pecking order of species large and small, we humans like to think that we're pretty hot stuff.  The Top Dogs, the Big Kahunas, the real Kings of the Jungle, the most civilized and important creatures on earth. And why not?  After all, aren't we the ones who invented the light bulb, crazy glue, disco music, the Lazy Boy chair, the Ab Tronic abdominal exerciser, the Pop-Up Hot Dog Cooker, and a whole host of other technological breakthroughs.

But what if we're not No. 1, as Christopher Lloyd suggests in his fascinating new book "What on Earth Evolved?"  It's really a tribute to the 150 anniversary of Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" but a whole lot more.  Lloyd, a historian at Cambridge University, has taken on the relatively simple task of determining the 100 most important species to ever exist on earth.  And he does this using five criteria to sort out each one's place:

  • First, what was their impact on evolution.
  • Second, what was their impact on human history.
  • Third, what was their impact on the environment.
  • Fourth, how pervasive are they.
  • And Fifth, how long did they actually survive.

As humans or homo sapiens we do pretty well on most criteria with the exception of longevity.  We simply haven't been around long enough relative to many other species.  And that's what places us 6th–several spots down from, you guessed it, earthworms.  The species that has had the greatest impact on the world!  If you're curious about the Top 10, here they are:

  1. Earthworms
  2. Algae
  3. Cyanobacteria
  4. Rhizobia
  5. Lactobacillus
  6. Homo Sapiens (That would be us!)
  7. Stony Corals
  8. Yeast
  9. Influenza
  10. Penicillium

To learn more about the pivotal role of earthworms and all the other species you'll have to really dig into this unusual book.  But Lloyd's journey through time will be well worth the effort.  You might even find reason to be proud sharing the stage with so many seemingly lower life forms.  And you'll also get to hang with cows (No. 17), ants (No. 25), honey bees (No.33), bamboo (No. 40), dogs (No. 42), cats (No. 46), coffee (No. 85), camels (No. 87), and hamsters (No. 90).

Lloyd Cover 

Now here's your challenge.  Try to think about your company or organization and how it stacks up in line with Lloyd's five criteria.  What's been your impact on the industry and customers you serve?  How pervasive are you–in a good sense?  And how long are you likely to be around?

We win in business and in life by making a difference and changing with the times.  And by preparing the soil for a whole new generation of genius and innovation.