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Letter From the Editor

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I got a nice e-mail from a former colleague this week. He was just checking in, happy holidays and such. But it got me wondering about a mutual former colleague, a guy I hadn't thought about in years. Pre-Google, my thoughts would have gone like this: Hmmm, wonder whatever happened to ol' Rob? Did he divorce that hellcat he was married to? Did he stop drinking? Is he still taking pictures? Huh. Oh well. And that pretty much would have been it.

Not in 2009. I Google him and Google-image him. I discover he has a website, and he's on Facebook and Linked-In. It turns out I can find Rob's entire back-story, with pictures. If I want to touch base, I can e-mail him, "friend" him, or call him, since I now know where he works. I can even "drive" by his house using Google-map Street View. Daydreaming now offers an action plan.

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Another example: The "Billy Jack" movies of the '70s are a standing joke between me and another old friend who called me this week. (In case you're wondering, the Billy Jack films are cheesy action flicks starring a noble, lone-wolf, karate-chopping bad-ass aka Billy Jack.) As my friend hung up, he made a passing reference to Born Losers, in which Billy Jack fights off a biker gang and rescues a girl who spends most of the movie riding around on a motorcycle in a white bikini. "Wonder where that chick is today?" he said.

And, it's Google-daydreaming time — results-oriented and action-packed! A quick visit to imdb.com gives me the actress' name — Elizabeth James — and her meager film resume: Born Losers and Crazy Mary Dirty Larry. A Google-image search turns up a shot of James in her white bikini next to her motorcycle.

Through the Internet, most of us are now blessed (and cursed) with the luxury of being able to tap into the deep well of mankind's knowledge in seconds — from trivial minutiae to the deepest philosophical questions. Never before in human history has so much knowledge been so available to so many so easily. But by making learning easier, are we appreciating it less? I don't know. Thinking, unfortunately, is just as difficult as it's always been.

Which makes me wonder if there have been any studies on the impact of Google on human thought processes ... Hmmm, I should probably Google that.

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