The Year 2017 in Review

This is the time to recap the year that was.

There are a number of ways to do it, many of which are interesting. You can look at a year in terms of notable deaths, viral events, political rises and falls…

But how do you really get a 12-month snapshot of a culture's zeitgeist?

I would argue for two words: Google searches.

I'm not saying that this will be what historians will mark in 10, much less 100 years… even less what is most significant. But I will say that it may be the clearest window into our current soul.

So here we go with a few peeks into our inner world, courtesy of Google itself.

Top 10 Searches:

1. Hurricane Irma
2. Matt Lauer
3. Tom Petty
4. Super Bowl
5. Las Vegas Shooting
6. Mayweather vs McGregor fight
7. Solar Eclipse
8. Hurricane Harvey
9. Aaron Hernandez
10. Fidget Spinner

Top 10 "How To…":

1.How to make slime
2.How to make solar eclipse glasses
3.How to watch the solar eclipse
4.How to watch Mayweather vs McGregor
5.How to buy Bitcoin
6.How to freeze your credit
7.How to solve a rubix cube
8.How to make a fidget spinner
9.How to cook a turkey in the oven
10. How to screen record

Top 10 What is…:

1. What is DACA?
2. What is Bitcoin?
3. What is a solar eclipse?
4. What is ANTIFA?
5. What is net neutrality?
6. What is covfefe?
7. What is the antikythera mechanism?
8. What is a fidget spinner?
9. What is the Paris Climate Agreement?
10. What is a hurricane?

And finally, the Top 10 People of 2017 we were interested in:

1. Matt Lauer
2. Meghan Markle
3. Harvey Weinstein
4. Michael Flynn
5. Kevin Spacey
6. Bill O'Reilly
7. Melania Trump
8. Kathy Griffin
9. Milo Yiannopoulos
10. Gal Gadot

Welcome to our world.

James Emery White


Sources

See the "Year in Search 2017" for the United States, Google, read online.

Best Toys Ever

Wired magazine ran an article on the five best toys ever. Wired is one of the most innovative, bleeding-edge publications you can read to learn about all things technological. Which is why, at first, the list surprised me, but then I realized their angle and couldn't help but appreciate their wisdom.

Here's the list:

1. Stick

2. Box

3. String

4. Cardboard Tube

5. Dirt

Anybody want to argue with them? I doubt it.

It's an important reminder that the best things in life – and often in ministry, leadership, business and family – are the simple things.

The dilemma is how our culture seems to refuse to give simplicity a place.

But think about when it insists on intruding and the wake it leaves behind.

For example, imagine a snowstorm brings your town to a standstill. You stock up on bread and milk and a few other things you don't really need, and when the storm hits you settle in. The power goes out, so you light candles and gather by the fireplace for warmth. Board games that have been gathering dust for years are pulled out. You play them and have more fun than you can remember. You venture outside and actually play—throwing snowballs, making snow-angels, building a snowman.

It is golden.

You will probably talk, years later, about that magic night and how you'd give almost anything to go back and relive it, and wish there was a way to recreate it in the here and now.

In a complex, always "on" world, perhaps what we need to remember is that we need to intentionally unplug every now and then.

Even if it is just to remember that the best toys in the world – like the best times – are the simplest.

And, in truth, the most available.

That is my holiday wish for you. May you enjoy the simplicity and holiness that resides in the stillness between Christmas and the new year.

And maybe have some fun with a leftover box or two.

James Emery White


Sources
Jonathan Liu, "The 5 Best Toys of All Time," Wired, January 31, 2011, read online.

Editor's Note
This blog was originally published in 2011. The Church & Culture team thought you would enjoy this annual tradition once again. Merry Christmas!

The Real Christmas Carol

Most people have seen one or more versions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Hands down, it is among my favorite Christmas tales: the story of Ebenezer Scrooge having his conscience reawakened through the apparition of his former partner, Jacob Marley, and the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future.

I like the characters.

I like the Victorian-era Christmas charm, complete with frosted windows, mistletoe and plum pudding.

I love the streets of Old London.

But when I first read the novel itself, after viewing various versions of the movie, I was shocked. Scrooge was not the buffoonish, almost cartoon-like character some of the movies made him out to be.

He was genuinely evil. Cruel. Malicious. He was a dark and sinister man. The story actually reads more like a Stephen King novel.

When you study the era itself that Dickens wrote about (he published A Christmas Carol in 1843 as a social statement against harsh child labor practices) you realize that it was dark and evil, as well.

Historian Lisa Toland wrote a fascinating essay on the reality behind the story.

Almost 75% of London's population was considered working class, many of them children laboring in the factories. In fact, every member of a family had to work in order to survive. Dickens himself worked as a young boy to support his family while his parents were in debtor's prison.

The time was known as the "Hungry Forties" because there was a depression along with a time of poor harvests. The London skyline was little more than smokestacks putting out clouds of sooty grit that covered rooftops and the cheeks of the young chimney sweeps.

It was the coal-dependent nature of these factories that created the famed London Fog. It wasn't fog at all, but a combination of smoke, soot and grit. The streets were covered in rainwater, the contents of chamber pots, and animal waste. Rats were abundant.

Small, often emaciated children sold flowers and matches while the wealthy class' horse-drawn carriages swept past. London's poor were forced into shrinking housing districts. Multiple families lived in single rooms in rundown buildings.

That was Dickens' London.

And people had turned a blind eye because supposedly there were "services." When two men ask Scrooge for money, to which he replies, "Are there no prisons? And the Union workhouses? Are they still open? ... The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigor, then?", there is much that we fail to understand.

What makes Scrooge's comments so biting is that the Poor Law, with its accompanying workhouses, were despised by the poor. The driving principle was to make the conditions in those places worse than how they would have lived and worked had they had a job. And in trying to determine who did deserve to go there, the group that fell through the cracks was children. The father or mother would be sent to the workhouse, leaving the children alone to beg in the streets.

Or worse.

If you died while laboring in a workhouse, your body was automatically turned over for dissection. You wouldn't even receive a burial. The conditions were so bad and people there were treated so poorly, that many of London's poor chose to beg on the streets or enter into prostitution in order to avoid the workhouses.

From that darkness, Dickens gives us a tale of redemption.

The story of someone being saved.

There is another story we tend to romanticize.

We've all seen the Christmas cards that go out: pictures of Mary in flowing robes, gentle animals gazing lovingly down on the baby who is always blue-eyed, blonde-haired and, while supposedly newborn, has the look and weight of a six-month-old.

That's not the way it was.

Mary and Joseph were desperate to find a place for her to give birth, and couldn't find one. They ended up in an outdoor livestock area. Unclean, unkempt, unwelcome. Tradition – dating back to Justin Martyr in the second century – says it was probably some kind of cave. Smelly, damp, cold.

They had to use a feeding trough as a bassinette. The word "manger" is very warm and fuzzy, but don't romanticize it. A manger was a feeding trough for the animals.

This was a desperately stark and sad scene.

And lonely.

The Bible tells us that Mary wrapped the baby in cloths. That was common for the day. Long strips of cloth were used to wrap the baby tight and keep their legs and arms straight and secure. The process is called swaddling.

It tells us something of the lonely nature of Mary's motherhood that Luke records that she was the one who wrapped Jesus up after His birth—there was no midwife or relative helping, which would have been the norm.

And she was young. Very young.

Engagement usually took place immediately after entering puberty, so Mary may have just entered her teens—13, 14 or, at the most, 15.

And from that darkness, we are given another picture of redemption.

Another story about being saved.

Another story that can be romanticized, but was very, very real.

Real in a way that drives us to our knees to marvel at God come to Earth to save… us.

James Emery White


Sources

Lisa Toland, "The Darker Side of 'A Christmas Carol,'" Christianity Today, December 2, 2009, read online.

Editor's Note
This blog was originally published in 2010. It is a favorite of the Church & Culture team, and we thought you would enjoy reading it again this year.

Giving to Christ at Christmas

What is the most important thing you can do this Christmas?

There's a long list to consider, to be sure. Let's bracket off honoring the birth of Christ by attending a church service celebrating the event, as this should be a given. What else is there to consider?

For many years, I've felt that the single-most important act of the holidays is to give to Christ at Christmas.

Since 1994, those who attend Mecklenburg Community Church (Meck) have made it our mission to honor the gift God gave us in the birth of Jesus by beginning our gift-giving at Christmas with a gift to Him. This simple idea has become what is known as our annual "Giving to Christ at Christmas" effort.

GTCAC Cartoon.jpg

The idea was sparked for me when I saw this cartoon during the busyness of the holiday season and thought, "Wow… that's what giving to Christ at Christmas really is all about." Since that day, Meck comes together as a church to give the most generous gift we can—above and beyond our normal giving—as a direct gift to Christ Himself at Christmas to celebrate His birthday. The money is then used strategically for the work of His mission on Earth.

Over the years, the gifts given through Giving to Christ at Christmas have allowed Meck to help rebuild orphanages, supply relief to hurricane survivors in North and Central America, provide safe houses for girls rescued from human trafficking, and help the poor and needy in our city. Giving to Christ at Christmas has provided ongoing, strategic support to the building, development and payment of our campuses, freeing up our annual budget to serve the daily needs of ministry and outreach to thousands of families in our community.

Every year we turn to God for leadership and discernment as to where this gift should be invested.

So once again this Christmas, I'll do all I can to encourage people to give to Christ. That means I want to encourage you, too, to do the same through whatever local church you are a part of. I know that you are bombarded with requests to give to a number of causes over the holiday season. Many might be worthy, but most will not represent truly giving to Christ.

And that's what Christmas is all about.

James Emery White

On Mission for Christmas

Toys "R" Us wants you for Christmas.

I remember reading an article about a very targeted plan by the toy giant to "invade the mall [during the] holiday season, opening 600 'Express' stores in malls and other shopping centers around the country, more than six times [the previous] year's count, and hiring 10,000 seasonal workers."

During a time of economic downturn, then-CEO Gerald Storch saw this as a necessary "aggressive action" plan.

The company indeed went into action and the question simply became, "How big can we make this?"

Which led me to wonder, how big can we make Christmas?

Or, more specifically, Christmas Eve?

Evangelical churches of all kinds throughout the United States have seldom held services on Christmas Day when it has not fallen on a Sunday (a tradition that dates back to the Puritans). In fact, marking Christmas has never been tied to a Sunday-specific celebration (as with Easter).

If there is a day that has uniformly been seized by churches to celebrate the birth of Christ, it has been Christmas Eve. For many years, Christmas Eve has been the day of choice for the communal celebration among Christians of the birth of Christ.

Christmas Eve services are a last bastion against the rampant materialism and secularism that threatens to overwhelm the true meaning of the season, and they serve to keep the birth of Christ in the center of our hearts and celebrations.

They are also one of the most strategic ways we can reach out to individuals for Christ so that one day they may celebrate His birth with us in the fullness of the new birth He will bring to their life. Christmas Eve really is one of the best times to reach out to the unchurched in a culture that, for now at least, still draws them to attend such services.

As a result, we need to ask ourselves – as Toys "R" Us did – "How big can we make this?"

And by how big can we make this, I mean:

How many people can we reach for Christ who wouldn't darken the doorstep of a church any other time of the year?

How can we most strategically remind them of the reason for the season in a way their latest trip to the mall did not?

If they naturally turn their thoughts to church and Jesus, how can we serve those inclinations and let this Christmas Eve mark the advent of Christ in their life?

Our Christmas Eve services are planned months in advance, staff is out in full force, we employ hundreds of volunteers, we give a present to all in attendance (usually a book to serve a spiritual search or journey), and we offer a treat (like cookies and hot cocoa) after the service.

This year we will offer 26 services over five days and five campuses. 

A lot of effort, I know. But the way we figure it, there was a lot of effort in the incarnation and it was for more than a Christmas card.

It was, as the angel said, to bring "good news of great joy for all the people." (Luke 2:10)

So how big are we going to make it?

As big as we can.

James Emery White


Sources

Mae Anderson, "Toys 'R' Us Opening 600 Holiday Stores in Malls, Hiring 10,000," USA Today, September 9, 2010, read online.

*Editor's Note: This blog was originally published in 2010. The Church & Culture Team brings this blog annually as churches prepare for their Christmas Eve services.

A Tweet's Glance into Culture

There are many ways to gain a quick snapshot into culture. One of the more revealing ways is to look at what has trended – or is trending – on Twitter. So for a crash course in all things "now," here is a sampling of Twitter's most popular tweets and accounts of 2017:

Most retweeted tweets:

1. The Wendy's chicken nugget challenge
2. Barack Obama's Charlottesville response
3. Pennsylvania State University raises money for Houston
4. Ariana Grande responds to the Manchester concert shooting
5. President Obama's last "thankful" tweet as POTUS

Most tweeted about celebrities:

1. K-pop group @BTS_twt
2. South Korean record label @pledis_17
3. Singer @Camila_Cabello

Most tweeted about elected world leaders:

1. President Donald Trump @RealDonaldTrump
2. Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India @narendramodi
3. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro @NicolasMaduro

Most tweeted about TV shows (US-only):

1. Game of Thrones
2. Stranger Things
3. Big Brother
4. 13 Reasons Why
5. Saturday Night Live
6. The Walking Dead
7. Grey's Anatomy
8. The Voice
9. Supernatural
10. Pretty Little Liars

Most tweeted about movies (US-only):

1. Wonder Woman
2. La La Land
3. Dunkirk
4. Spider-Man: Homecoming
5. Justice League
6. It
7. Beauty and the Beast
8. Thor: Ragnarok
9. Black Panther
10. Fifty Shades Darker

Most tweeted activism hashtags (US-only):

1. #Resist
2. #MAGA
3. #ImpeachTrump
4. #TrumpTrain
5. #WomensMarch
6. #NotMyPresident
7. #BlackLivesMatter
8. #NoDAPL
9. #TakeAKnee
10. #BoycottNFL

Now, ready for your homework? If any of these made you feel clueless, put Google to work and catch up.

It's the world in which you live.

James Emery White


Sources

Jennifer Machin, "From Trump to Chicken Nuggets, Twitter's Most Popular Tweets and Accounts of 2017," Mashable, December 5, 2017, read online.

Your Child on Facebook

In case you haven't heard, there's a new Facebook app for children called Messenger Kids, targeted for children ages 13 and under. It asks parents to give their approval so that their child can message, add filters and doodle on photos they send to other children. It's a clear play for a new generation.

It's also a time to ask some clear questions for a new generation of parenting:

"How young is too young for children to use this kind of social media?"

"How and when should they start their online lives?"

There are some who would argue that you can't start too young. That a child's early adoption of technology is no different than their early exposure to a foreign language. At the very least, their child's adoption of technology is inevitable, so, "Thank you, Facebook," for making something age appropriate.

Then there are those who not only see technology creeping far too deep into family life, but also see the use of smart phones and their accompanying apps at ever-earlier ages as a dangerous slide into the abyss.

Let's state the obvious. Preteens already make ample use of YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Musical.ly—all of which state they are not for use for said preteens. And we also know that they already text. A lot. So perhaps we should be glad that Facebook has developed a social media app where parents control the contact list and children can't connect with contacts their parents do not approve.

If this feels strangely like a conversation about when to talk to your kids about sex, or when they should become sexually active, or when they should be allowed to watch certain programs, or read certain books… it should.

Because it's precisely that kind of concern.

And parents face the same dilemma in so many other areas: Do I let my kid go with the flow? Do I give in to the old "every other kid" vibe—as in every other kid is doing it, has one, has seen it, or is going to be there? Do I violate my best instincts out of social pressure?

Or, do I ban it and run the risk of them feeling left out, shunned, teased and socially deprived?

First, let's understand childhood, shall we? It is a time when a child is supposed to be a child. Yet as sociologist Neil Postman wrote in one of his most important works, The Disappearance of Childhood, children are being robbed of their innocence, their naiveté, their ability to even be a child. He contended that in our world, we ask children to embrace mature issues, themes and experiences long before they are ready.

Postman argued that the very idea of childhood is that there should be a time when a young person is sheltered from certain ideas, experiences, practices, expectations and knowledge. They should be sheltered from adult secrets, particularly sexual ones. Certain facets of life – its mysteries, contradictions, tragedies and violence – are not considered suitable for children to know. Only as children grow into adulthood are they revealed in ways that they can assimilate psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.

So as a parent, ask yourself: does this, or any other technology, enhance or erode your child's childhood?

Second, let's talk about the pressure parents face to conform, to give in, because "all of the other parents" are letting their kids do something, see something, go to something or own something. Parents who take a stand can feel like they're swimming upstream, and that.gets.hard.

I get it.

But being a Christian parent, doing the right thing and protecting your child's childhood is not going to win any popularity contests in this very dark and fallen world. It is not going to put you or your child in the mainstream. You will be raising them counter-culturally because the culture itself is not a Christian one.

So where do you draw the line? Because not everything has to be counter-cultural. Christ is not on the line with every decision.

What makes something a "minor" instead of a "major"?

Four things: that it doesn't have anything substantive to do with conduct, character, influence or exposure.

By conduct, I mean it doesn't have anything to do with moral behavior.

By character, I mean it doesn't have anything to do with their inner world.

By influence, I mean it doesn't have anything to do with what is going to shape or mold them.

And by exposure, I mean it doesn't have anything to do with what they are going to take into their heart or mind.

So should your child be allowed to use Messenger Kids?

I've purposefully not answered that for you.

But I've also, very purposefully, given you some things to think about as you decide.

James Emery White


Sources

Mike Isaac and Natasha Singer, "New Facebook App for Children Ignites Debate Among Families," The New York Times, December 4, 2017, read online.

Hayley Tsukayama, "Facebook's New Messaging App Deepens Debate Over Kids' Social Media Use," The Washington Post, December 4, 2017, read online.

David Bloom, "Facebook Makes Another Run at Gen Z Audiences with Messenger Kids App," TV[R]EV, December 4, 2017, read online.

The Rise of the Digisexual

In Meet Generation Z, I wrote that one of the defining marks of Generation Z was the embrace of sexual fluidity.

Here's a sampling from that work:

Generation Z has become sexually and relationally amorphous. Consider the influential statements by outspoken young celebrities such as Kristen Stewart, Miley Cyrus and Cara Delevingne. Stewart, when asked about her sexuality said, "I think in three or four years, there are going to be a whole lot more people who don't think it's necessary to figure out if you're gay or straight. It's like, just do your thing." And from Miley Cyrus: "[I don't] relate to being boy or girl, and I don't have to have my partner relate to boy or girl."

They are not alone.

A recent U.K. study revealed that nearly half of all young people don't think they are exclusively heterosexual. The YouGov survey revealed that 49% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 identified as something other than 100% heterosexual. This despite the repeated findings that only about 4% of the entire adult population are actually homosexual. What is being revealed is an increasing "sexual fluidity" … Sexuality should be set free of any and all restrictions and allowed to follow its desire, moment by moment.

Why? Because the greatest value for this generation is nothing less than individual freedom.

From this, a new cultural dictionary has exploded onto the scene dealing with all things sexual such as the rise of the "digisexual."

Lost you?

You're not alone.

Here's a quick primer on some new words you might want to familiarize yourself with:

Androsexual  primarily attracted to men

Asexual – experiencing little or no attraction to others

Bicurious – curiosity about having attraction to people of the same gender/sex

Cisgender – a person whose gender identity and biological sex assigned at birth align

Demisexual  little or no capacity to experience sexual attraction until a strong romantic or emotional connection is formed

Digisexual  primary sexual identity coming through the use of technology

Gynesexual  primary attracted to women

Pansexual – a person who experiences attraction for members of all gender identities/expressions

Skoliosexual  being primarily attracted to genderqueer, transgender, transsexual and non-binary people

Third gender – a person who does not identify with either man or woman

Transgender  a person who lives as a member of a gender other than that assigned at birth based on anatomical sex

Transsexual  a person who identifies psychologically as a gender/sex other than the one to which they were assigned at birth

That pretty much covers it. Except you should notice one category that has gone missing. It's no longer in fashion and rather passé, but it might be worth mentioning in passing:

… heterosexual.

James Emery White


Sources

James Emery White, Meet Generation Z.

Sarah Knapton, "Rise of the 'Digisexual' as Virtual Reality Bypasses Need for Human Intimacy," The Telegraph, November 26, 2017, read online.

The Six Laws of Technology

There is a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal titled "The Six Laws of Technology Everyone Should Know." It is based on the writings of Melvin Kranzberg, a professor of the history of technology at Georgia Institute of Technology.

He wrote about these laws 30 years ago, based on examples taken from the Cold War.

But they have become legendary among technologists, serving as something of a Hippocratic oath for all people who build things. It's a fascinating list and worth thinking about deeply:

1. "Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral."

This was Kranzberg's first law and considered his most important. He understood that the impact of a technology would be determined by its geographic and cultural context. This means it can often be good and bad at the same time. Think Facebook groups that serve as a support for parents with children of rare diseases and Facebook groups that radicalize political extremists.

Lesson? Tech companies should "try to anticipate the potential impact of anything they produce."

Reality? Too often, they don't even try.

2. "Invention is the mother of necessity."

No, you didn't read that wrong. The tried and true phrase is "Necessity is the mother of invention." But the point, Kranzberg wrote, is that "every technical innovation seems to require additional technical advances in order to make it fully effective."

Consider the smart phone—its creation demanded "countless other technologies, from phone cases to 5G wireless."

3. "Technology comes in packages, big and small."

This is all about interdependence and interaction. Consider how "steel, oil and rail were the package of technologies that dominated the 19th and early 20th centuries." Today? The package would be "the internet, mobile phones and wireless connectivity."

4. "Although technology might be a prime element in many public issues, nontechnical factors take precedence in technology-policy decisions."

This is something very much worth thinking about. Technology, in and of itself, does not have intrinsic power. As historian Robert C. Post, who was Kranzberg's friend and colleague, says: "It has to be motivated by political power or cultural power or something else."

Consider how Congress has declared their intention to force Google, Facebook and others to disclose who pays for political ads on their platforms. This is already the norm for TV, radio and print.

5. "All history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant."

The motivating force behind this "law" was how the Cold War "led to the buildup of nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them anywhere on Earth. That led to the development of a war-proof communication system: the internet."

Yes, nuclear weapons were (are) mildly relevant. The potential destruction of civilization as we know it is worth noting. But the new truth is that is that it would be hard to make a case that anything in our world is more relevant than technological advancement. The impact is too strong and the circle of influence too wide.

6. "Technology is a very human activity."

The Wall Street Journal article noted how Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook, in a 2017 commencement speech at MIT, said: "Technology is capable of doing great things. But it doesn't want to do great things—it doesn't want anything." The point? That despite its power, "how we use technology is up to us."

Yes.

But let's let the final word be Kranzberg's:

"Many of our technology-related problems arise because of the unforeseen consequences when apparently benign technologies are employed on a massive scale."

Again, yes. As in a "tower of Babel" scale.

And we know how that turned out.

James Emery White


Sources

Christopher Mims, "The Six Laws of Technology Everyone Should Know," The Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2017, read online.

The Googled Mind

Few would be surprised to learn that Google handles 90% of all internet searches. What would be news to many is that – according to journalist Jack Nicas – the internet giant is increasingly "presenting itself as the authority on truth by promoting a single search result as the answer."

And those results are often wrong.

For example, to the question "Does money buy happiness?" Google recently highlighted a result that stated: "There is enough scientific research to prove it."

To "Who are the worst CEOs of all time?" Google answered with the names and photos of 11 chief executives, including Gordon Bethune of Continental Airlines and Robert Nardelli of Home Depot.

To "Should abortion be legal?" Google cited a South African news site saying, "It is not the place of government to legislate against women's choices."

These are "promoted answers" or "featured snippets" outlined in boxes above other results and presented in larger type, often with images.

And they are believed, by many, to be the definitive answer. Surveys show people "consider search engines their most-trusted source of information, over traditional media or social media." This is why Google's featured answers "are feeding a raging global debate about the ability of Silicon Valley companies to influence society... the power of their products and their vulnerability to bias or manipulation."

This is larger than the criticism directed at Facebook over the spread of "fake news" during the 2016 presidential election. It's about a new day when the dominant source of information is not simply divorced from truth, but the recipients are divorced from wisdom. And this is the curse of our day: almost unlimited access to information and virtually no wisdom by which to parse it.

When a Google spokesperson said the company's goal isn't to do the thinking for users but "to help you find relevant information quickly and easily… [and to] encourage users to understand the full context by clicking through to the source," I couldn't help but think back on a similar statement by film director Oliver Stone.

In a speech given at American University, responding to the distortions and factual errors pointed out in his film JFK (presented as a faux-documentary on the Kennedy assassination), Stone said that films shouldn't be the end-all for what is true and that people "have a responsibility to read a book."

He went on to say, "[No one is] going to sit through a three-hour movie and say, 'That's that.'"

He's wrong. That is exactly what people do.

Or, as University of North Carolina professor Zeynep Tufekci who studies technology's effect on society said,

"This is how people learn about the world."

Yes, it is.

So when the featured answer to the query, "Why are Komodo dragons endangered?" is volcanoes, fire and tourism, there is a problem. Particularly when you find the source was a Canadian elementary school student's report that was posted online, and that Komodo dragons aren't endangered at all.

But people who actually know this, or bother to find out are.

James Emery White


Sources

Jack Nicas, "Google Has Already Picked an Answer for You—Too Bad It's Often Wrong," The Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2017, read online.

See also James Emery White, A Mind for God.