This is one Google search I wish I hadn't undertaken. This one is actually not a tech blog but about how one Google search shattered a child's dream. Our generation did not have to go through something like this. No search engine came between us and our imaginary worlds.
My five-year old son, Ishaan, is crazy about animals in general; and elephants in particular. He knows almost all there is to know about elephants--from what all and how much they eat, to where all they are found on this planet, their families, their habitats, etc. He gets all this knowledge from books and his favorite TV channel, Animal Planet.
There is one (female) elephant he likes in particular, Echo. He saw her in a documentary on Animal Plant called "Echo and the Elephants of Amboseli". Echo, a matriarch, heads the largest family in Amboseli, in Kenya.
Ishaan wanted us to take a trip to Amboseli to meet Echo. We had promised him that we would go to Kenya to meet Echo when he is a little older.
Like many kids his age, he knows there is lots you can find by just typing words on Google search. So last evening, we typed "Echo Amboseli" in the Google search field. I was surprised to find a lot of information about the matriarch on the Internet.
But that Google search also told us that Echo died last year. In fact, there were also some clips on YouTube that showed her last moments. Ishaan saw them all.
First, he told me that the people of Amboseli said (in those clips on YouTube) that they have found another elephant with tusks just like Echo. "In fact, she looks just like Echo and now she is the matriarch," Ishaan said. He was in denial of her death.
I had to explain to him that once someone dies, they don't come back. Gradually, the reality sank in. And for roughly two hours, Ishaan was inconsolable. His favorite elephant was dead. He finally knew what death meant.
"You read out in that book that when an elephant is about to die, its family tries to help it get up. Why didn't Echo's family help her get up?" he questioned. With my limited knowledge about elephants, I tried to give him an answer. "Probably because she was very old and her family members knew she can't live any longer," I said. This was just one of the many questions I had to answer.
The Internet has emerged as a powerful educational tool. We often supplement our poor general knowledge through search engines. Parents probably find it very helpful. Personally, I have found it much more useful than the "Tell Me Why" series our parents used when we were kids.
But this time, things were a little different. Somewhere, I thought the Google search killed a little bit of Ishaan's innocence.
His generation is born in the age of search engines and will grow up carrying an information overload. They will grow up very fast. And I wonder what their adulthood will be like.