Is this the world we (want to) live in?A city trip with Google
A blog by Daphne Groeneveld
Each year we organise the (European) City Breaks Press Event as city trips are, and will remain, a very popular type of holiday. I myself am ‘guilty’ of taking a couple of city trips per year. A quick weekend to Porto, a city round trip through Italy and several visits to London each year. The latter being a slight addiction. What’s also addictive, is my dear friend Google because: ‘Google knows everything’.
We joke about it in daily life. Is there something you don’t know, ‘ask’ Google. T-shirts with the line ‘My wife is better than the FBI: she has Google, Facebook and Instagram’can be bought everywhere and ‘just Google it’ has become a household phrase used in pretty much every conversation. In short: we can’t ignore the fact that Google is a significant part of our lives.
And that brings me back to city trips. You’re perfectly capable of finding your way in your hometown of course, but when you visit a city that’s new to you, in a country where speaking English seems like rocket science, a slight panic might occur. How will you find your way, what was the currency rate again and how to order a glass of wine? Take a guess: Google knows everything. And that lovely search engine with those merry coloured letters, that engine is becoming smarter and smarter by the day.
During my latest trip to London with some friends, Google was right there by our sides, especially now that we can freely roam data in Europe. While I was disembarking the aircraft, Google was able to tell me whether the train or bus would be the best (read: quickest) option to get to our accommodation. Just push the button. So what was the deal again with the exchange rate? Google. I’m feeling a bit hungry after the flight, let’s see if there’s a nice place to eat nearby. Google. I make a reservation straight away and voila. Immediately there’s a note in my agenda with address, time and a button to – indeed – navigate. With Google.
The apartment was in the middle of Soho and my friends and I were keen to visit the Tower Bridge, let’s see what the best way is to get there. I could’ve grabbed the tube map of course but there are also those iconic red double-decker buses in London. I don’t know if you have ever tried to make sense of the London bus route network, but again: rocket science. So my smart and merry coloured friend came peeking around the corner. Google was able to tell me exactly how to reach the Tower Bridge from my current location, complete with walking route to the bus stop, number of the bus stop and real time departure times, route of the bus and other lines departing from the same stop. Oh, and also if the road is crowded and whether I could expect some delay. Again, Google knows everything.
While this may sound ideal, the world at your feet with just a smartphone in hand, there is however a downside. What if Google were to disappear? When it turns out that it has too much of a monopoly. When the internet or when GPS satellites disappear into the infinity of the galaxy. Nobody would be able to function properly without Google.
Do you remember how to read a map, start a conversation with somebody in another language or calculate the exchange rate? Can you figure out how to use the local public transportation system and do you dare to step into a restaurant you haven’t previously Googled? So, is there life after Google? A question I don’t want to dwell on for too long but the fact is that our lives are really starting to depend on Google, which is quite terrifying. Let’s see what the future has in store for us.