Preconceived notions of people, places and things can be hurtful, and in many cases, completely wrong. By refusing to judge and not rushing to judgment, we open our minds and broaden our ability to learn new things. Unfortunately, judging others is easy and not as time-consuming as having conversations with people and reading books and attempting to learn the things we don’t know. Let’s face it, in the age of advanced technology and instant information, there’s always an easier way.
So let’s get out our phones, pop on Google and let the robots do the work.
The Google search algorithm is great because it attempts to finish your thoughts when typing in terms. Generally it returns results that are most popular or most searched. Basically, it will do the thinking for you. For example, when I type in “Kim Jong-un is,” the top term finishing that phrase is, “a Pokemon master.” Now I don’t know if that’s a racially insensitive thing, or some popular website, or a meme, or if Kim Jong-un really is a Pokemon master — and I don’t care. Because from now on, for better or worse, I will associate Kim Jong-un with Pokemon. I’ll be in a bar one night talking about North Korea and drunkenly say: “I heard Kim Jong-un is a Pokemon master. I swear, man.” People might even believe me.
You also can change the word “is” to either “wants” or “hates,” and then discover all sorts of knowledge or preconceived stereotypes. For example, did you know that Ronald McDonald is evil, cars hate pedestrians and cats want to kill you? I had no idea!
I bring this up because last week the Twitter feed @Amazing_Maps came up with a U.S. map that showed the results produced by Google’s auto-complete function for each state after typing in “Why is [fill-in-the-blank state] so ...”
Some results were predictable. Why is Texas so big? Kansas, so flat? Utah, so Mormon?
Some were odd. A lot of people apparently wonder why Pennsylvania is so haunted.
Many results were just plain insulting with their blunt honesty. You know, why is Louisiana so racist? Why is Georgia so backwards? West Virginia, so poor? Maine, so white? Seriously, it’s like a freakin’ L.L. Bean catalog come to life up there. Why is that?
And I, like anyone who’s driven the turnpike en route to New York, frequently find myself trying to figure out why New Jersey is so bad. No, I’m kidding. I could easily reel off 20 answers to that query.
Where the Google auto-complete game gets really fun is when you apply search terms to a map of the world. The results change frequently because Google’s algorithm processes billions of daily searches, but some of the better auto-completes are hilarious and completely out of left field.
For instance, did you know that Bolivia hates Chile, Chile hates Argentina, and Argentina hates Justin Bieber? I mean, I guess Bieber-hatred trumping socio-economic rivalries and deep-seated cultural rifts between countries in South America isn’t really a shocker at this point, but still — an entire country hating you is nothing to sneeze at. Good job, you little tool bag. You may already have known that Russia wants Alaska, Mexico wants Texas, Japan wants Hawaii and that Germany wants its gold back, but did you know that Australia — much like cats — wants to kill you? It’s true. Don’t ever, ever go there.
Also, Canada is boring, South Africa is a country, Lithuania is suicidal, Greenland is melting, Ecuador is lovely this time of year, France is either bacon or is so gay, and my personal favorite, the Czech (Republic) is in the mail. I feel smarter already. Let’s get hyper-local.
Now we already know that Virginia is for lovers. But have you heard that Richmond Virginia is ghetto? OK, yeah, I had heard that too. It’s an arbitrary assumption because we as Richmonders know that for the most part, Richmond is not at all “ghetto.” It’s like you lead the nation in per capita murders a few times in the ’90s and all of sudden in people’s eyes you’re ghetto? That’s so unfair!
It isn’t like we’re Ciudad Juarez. I’ve heard it’s pretty awful down there. It’s like, murder capital of the universe. All drug cartels and decapitations. I mean, I haven’t been there, but I have a buddy in Detroit whose brother lives there. So you can imagine.
Oh and Detroit? Great, if you’re into “ruin porn,” not great if you’re into anything else — like staying above the poverty line or “living.”
Jeez guys, open up your minds.
Connect with Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lauterback also is co-host of “Mornings with Melissa and Jack” on 103.7 Play, weekdays from 6-9. On Twitter @jackgoesforth.