They give you one box, you type in your question or query and press Enter. You might think that there is absolutely no way to use that incorrectly, or that something bad might happen as a result of that search. Yet, you would be wrong.
The thing about search engines is that they use algorithms that were designed to try and find results that are most relevant to your query. Algorithm has a number of factors it considers when deciding how relevant something is. That all sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, for starters, those factors are not whether something was proven true or is something based on evidence, but they are things that search engine manufacturers have decided that are likely to produce quality results. Of course, theoretically those things can lineup, so that search engine really presents you with credible information, but that is not guaranteed in any way.
To put it simply, google doesn’t care what’s true. It cannot possibly care about what’s true.
Yes, you might say – of course, google doesn’t have all the facts of the world programmed into it, so it cannot answer those types of questions by itself. Google doesn’t want to answer those questions themselves, they want to point you in a right direction. That is all fine – but what this post will try to argue is that search engines are not equipped to correct any initial bias in your query – if you start from a premise you want to prove correct – google will only basically support what you already think you know. Take a look at the following example, where the only difference is singular or plural.
Of course, using such terms which are more or less close to each other, you won't get a huge discrepancy. Still, using singular or plural search terms can cause google to not show you the answer snippet from Harvard, but from a fitness magazine. This is not to say fitness magazine doesn’t know what they are talking about, but to show how tiny, miniscule changes in your query can result in differences.
This is what can happen even if you start honestly.
Now, to show a more sinister example:
When I googled it today, the term was on second place:
Clearly, this is more or less a case of gaming the system. Two religious arguments on what is clearly a scientific query. So, clearly it is possible to game the system. Either that, or the system is not perfect in the first place. Take your pick. The most likely truth is that it’s actually both. Search engines have not yet attained even the ability to consistently show more or less same results if you change singular to plural. The point is, you simply cannot trust it to reach the conclusion for you. You can use google to find more information, but it is not a fact machine. So, even if you start with NO BIAS whatsoever and ask a honest question, you are still likely to be served with nonsense.