FOG: Fear of Google

Justin Moffatt

Two news items caught my attention this weekend, both involve fear. There is something refreshing reading these two articles side by side.

1. FOG. abbr. Fear of Google.

A very interesting piece appeared in the Herald today about the relationship between the media and Google.  It's an article hard for me to read, because, as far as I can tell, Google has the answer to almost every question I've ever asked (except, of course, 'Who is God?', and 'How I might be saved?').

The article maintains that the media helped create Google, and yet it is now giving their creator nightmares. The main reason is that Google's search engine has a formula - an algorithm - that could change at any moment, sending companies bankrupt on the whims of computer nerds in California. This algorithm, the article says, 'is as closely guarded a secret as Coca-Cola’s recipe.'

They call it fear of Google, or FOG for short. That feeling in the small hours when you sit bolt upright in bed in sheer terror at how much your livelihood relies upon an algorithm.

In the article, I noticed that they were piling the metaphors deep. They described Google in many ways. Here is a sample:

"¢ Google as 'a friendly King Kong', who can 'pick you up and crush you without realising it.'
"¢ Google as 'Google Death Star' which will 'reign supreme'.
"¢ Google as 'parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet'.
"¢ Google as a war-machine, with 'weapons in its armoury'.
"¢ Google as 'a drug' in that it is 'addictive. The thought of giving it up is scary'.

I couldn't help thinking that Google has become the new version of the old Greek gods. The gods whose every whim you must discern, lest you be discarded without warning. The god whom we can never please, and yet taking no real interest in the affairs of human beings.

The next piece is a small news article that speaks of a different fear, not of men, but of God:

2. FOG: abbr. Fear of God.

In a short article, World’s oldest primary student dies at 90, we read of a Kenyan man who apparently was so keen to read the Word of God for himself that he enrolled in the same Primary school as his 30 Grandchildren.

A Kenyan man who entered the record books as the world’s oldest primary school student has died at the age of 90. Kimani Nganga Maruge was 84 when he took advantage of the introduction of free primary education in Kenya, with no upper age limit. Not satisfied with what he was being told in church, Mr Maruge wanted to learn how to read the bible for himself. . He will be remembered by many people as an inspirational figure who bought new meaning to the phrase it’s never too late.

Here is a man who (as far as we can tell) wanted to please the real God. And our God is not Google. Our God is not fickle. Our God does not disown us on impulse. Our God is reliable. And he is knowable. As John says (1 John 4:16)

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

Don't get me wrong. I'll still use Google. 'In the World, not of the world', and all that.

But there is one way out of the FOG, and that is Fear of the living God. And that will always be true.

So, a discussion Question:

How does fear motivate?