Chapter 1: Finding What You Need--The Magic of Search Engines

Chapter 1: Finding What You Need—The Magic of Search Engines


The wise man doesn't give the right answers, he poses the right questions.


THERE ARE TWO PROBLEMS WITH INFORMATION: NOT HAVING ENOUGH, AND HAVING TOO MUCH. WITHOUT ALL THE NECESSARY INFORMATION ABOUT A TOPIC, IT'S EASY TO MAKE A WRONG DECISION BASED ON AN INCOMPLETE PICTURE OF REALITY. Then again, having too much information can be just as bad, since finding the relevant facts about a topic can be time-consuming and tedious, which encourages people to make snap decisions based on perception rather than accuracy.

Trying to find just enough useful facts without being overwhelmed by too much irrelevant trivia can be a delicate balancing act. Still, if you want to make informed choices based on reason and information rather than on emotion and ignorance, you must take the time to research your topic thoroughly.

As a research tool, the Internet offers a wealth of information about virtually every topic. Unfortunately, the Internet poses a few problems of its own when it comes to research:

  • How do you find the information you need?

  • How do you know if the information you find is accurate, obsolete, misleading, or just plain wrong?

Finding information on the Internet is relatively easy: You just type one or more words into a search engine, and then the search engine lists all the websites (that it knows about) that contain the words or phrases you want to find.

The easy part is sifting through the different websites to find the information you need. The hard part is deciding whether you can trust what you find, knowing that every source of information selectively chooses which facts to report and which ones to omit. Because we all have a natural tendency to interpret facts based on personal biases and experience, don't be surprised to find that one set of facts may cause you to reach a conclusion that's completely different from what someone else might reach.

Sometimes there might be a right answer and sometimes there might be a wrong answer, but more often than not, there won't be any one answer that's either completely right or completely wrong. What you decide may be the right answer depends on your point of view.