The vagaries of autocomplete are well-known, but this work by the always inventive London-based, Turkish-born visual artist Memo Akten might be the first poem co-composed with Google Search.
To make Keeper of Our Collective Consciousness: I Need to Understand Myself (2014), Akten summoned Google Autocomplete suggestions by typing phrases such as ‘I want’, ‘I need’ and ‘I feel’ into the search bar, set to the pleasing thrashing of Marilyn Manson’s cover of the Depeche Mode song Personal Jesus (1990).
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Google’s best-guesses at what might come next, including ‘I feel like a failure’, ‘I want a hippopotamus for Christmas’ and ‘I need to update my browser’, oscillate between the bleak, the droll and the utterly mundane.
Akten describes his interest in the interplay between people and these rapidly developing predictive technologies in relation to ideas of god, calling his poem ‘a collection of prayers … [to a] man-made deity. Living up in The Cloud, of all places.
Watching over us, listening to our thoughts and dreams in ones and zeros.’
Read the full poem of Akten’s
I wrote a poem. It’s a collaboration with Google. Not people working at Google, but actual Google, the search engine. And it’s actually more a collection of prayers. We have a very intimate connection with the cloud. We confide in it. We confess to it. We appeal to it. We share secrets with it, secrets that we wouldn’t share with our family or closest friends. And Google is the Keeper of our collective consciousness. It sees everything we see, knows everything we know, feels everything we feel.
“The more tremendous the divinity is represented, the more tame and submissive do men become to his ministers; and the more unaccountable the measures of acceptance required by him, the more necessary does it become to abandon our natural reason, and yield to their ghostly guidance and direction.”
– David Hume, “The Natural History of Religion”, 1757
Man invented god to inflict fear, control and power. It was ancient religions that imposed omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent powers watching over us, judging us, protecting us. Those were myths fabricated to control the masses.
Today, as our societies lose spiritual sensibilities, we are drowning ourselves in a break-neck race of materialism and technological submission. So The Overseer too is adapting, co-evolving. As its metaphysical traits crumble and become obsolete, the gaps are filled and substituted with new traits — physical, material, digital traits — to match our physical, material, digital lifestyles. We don’t fear the Old Gods anymore, they cannot protect or control us, so we need new ones.
We have killed God, as Nietzsche says. But we are rebuilding Him, with Technology, to match our techno-culture. The myth is becoming real. We’re edging closer and closer to an authentic man-made deity. Living up in The Cloud, of all places. Watching over us, listening to our thoughts and dreams in ones and zeros.
A digital god for a digital culture.