Downsizing Dilemma and the Dangers of Intuitive Search Engines

Stacks of National Geographics

Only gave away one Nat Geo magazine at my garage sale.

The downsizing dilemma I’ve struggled with most is my collection of National Geographic magazines.

That same tingle of excitement I felt as an eight-year-old still hits me each month when I pull that familiar yellow-framed volume out of the mailbox. Over the years, National Geographic has been my ticket to world travel and fascinating discoveries. This spirit of adventure and learning has had a profound influence on me and found its way into many of my stories.

The full archive of National Geographic magazines all the way back to 1888 is available online – and it’s even searchable, a very handy feature when you’re looking for that certain tidbit of information, say ancient coins minted with Cleopatra’s image or a description of Pueblo pottery in the early 1900s.

Yet, I wonder about all the things I might miss because I wasn’t looking for them specifically. In the last issue, I ended up reading an article about the Wilderness Act of 1964 because it had a spectacular picture of the San Juan Mountains, which I mentioned in a recent article. Without stumbling across that photo, I wouldn’t know that 30 proposed Wilderness Areas are now waiting for approval from the U.S. Congress.

None of these proposed Areas are in Oklahoma, so this is an issue that I was completely unaware of, but it raises an interesting question. During my lifetime I’ve watched daily newspapers slip from being a staple of a well-informed family to something we only see when visiting Grandma.

Now our news comes from websites and social media. Is there an unseen danger to that?

Intuitive search engines were all too quick to offer me Colorado vacation packages after I looked up which species of trout are native to the rivers in the San Juan Mountains. Will they also be eager to show me only environmentally-friendly articles if I share the Wilderness Act story on Facebook?

As a society, will we be able to make informed decisions and participate in democracy if the content we receive is tailored to our individual tastes? Currently these intuitive responses are used primarily for ads, but I have already seen a few information-oriented sites offering more articles similar to the one just read.

So, for now, I’m keeping my National Geographic print subscription. However, the 10 years of back issues didn’t make the downsizing cut – I’ll be doing my research online.

2 comments for “Downsizing Dilemma and the Dangers of Intuitive Search Engines

  1. October 10, 2014 at 3:03 am

    Good for you…I however, did away with almost 40 years of them, donated to charity for a tax deduct. Had hauled and boxed and moved and reboxed too much. Now I have them on CDs, but its not the same. But at least they’re not out in the garage anymore. Still, it was agony letting go of them.

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