What Google knows about being human

Below is an article that I co-authored with my colleague, Jason Thacker. The article was originally published at ERLC.com

In our digital age, one thing that seems to mark the conclusion of every year is the abundance of “best of” lists making the rounds on the internet. These lists chronicle everything from the best books of the year, to the best movies, songs, cars, employers and even viral videos. As more-than-casual observers of culture, we find these lists fascinating and insightful because of the picture they offer us of the world we live in. And from these lists, we can discern not only the kinds of things that capture people’s attention, but also why. So we were particularly intrigued when we stumbled upon Google’s version of the year-end recap of top search results.

Google is ubiquitous in our culture. Being a search engine, an internet provider, ad manager, email service, and so much more, Google is one of the preeminent tech giants whose influence is seen throughout most sectors of our society. For millions of people across the globe–ourselves included–the tech juggernaut is fully integrated into our everyday lives in ways we are not even conscience of, seemingly serving as an extension of our own minds. By examining the trends and patterns revealed in internet searches during 2017, Google discovered an interesting result: this year, the world asked “how?” And to showcase these results, Google put together a video.


Our questions ranged from the humorous to the urgent, and from the practical to the existential. Many of our questions came in response to tragedy. In 2017, the world witnessed dozens of devastating natural disasters. We watched as Mexico suffered an earthquake that killed nearly 400 people and injured thousands; we watched as historic wildfires raged across California; and, we watched as multiple hurricanes inflicted horrible damage upon Texas, Florida and the Caribbean including Puerto Rico. Even more, we once again witnessed unspeakable horror as we saw nearly 100 people either injured or killed during mass shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs. In response to these and other disasters, Google recorded an outpouring of compassion. Millions of people turned to Google to find out how to help. But that wasn’t the only response. In addition to compassion, we also revealed our fears and frailty, asking how we might protect ourselves from experiencing the very same things.