Here are the top things that Google doesn’t know:
For the most part, Google doesn’t know anything that is kept offline, such as written documents that are never scanned or typed into a computer system.
Google also doesn’t know things that can’t make sense to a computer, like what soap smells like.
Google also can’t answer many personal or philosophical questions.
So if you want to learn all about 12 things that Google doesn’t know, then this article is for you.
Let’s jump right into it!
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What Doesn’t Google Know? (12 Things)
It’s an interesting question.
It seems like no matter what you type into the search bar, you get an answer.
In that sense, it feels like Google kind of knows everything.
At the same time, there are instances where you try to find information and no amount of Google searching can get it for you.
So, what’s the difference?
Where are Google’s blind spots?
I can’t give you a list of specific searches that Google doesn’t know.
Even though there are plenty of examples, there’s no way to rank the most unsearchable things on Google.
Instead, I’m going to go through search concepts.
These are the types of things you can search for.
For many of them, Google will spit out results, but that doesn’t mean the results are worth anything.
With that in mind, I came up with 12 things that Google doesn’t know.
#1 Things That Are Sensored
The first thing Google doesn’t know is anything it’s not supposed to know.
That’s probably not the most accurate description, so let’s talk about censorship.
Google has to follow a lot of laws.
It’s a multinational company that provides search results to the vast majority of the world.
Since every country has different and specific laws regarding the internet, Google has a lot to worry about.
Needless to say, Google censors search results as legally required (for the most part).
I think an example will make more sense.
If you try to search for the nearest local meth lab, you’re probably not going to have much luck.
Google is deliberately censoring this kind of information, and it’s a legal requirement.
It would be a violation of the law for Google to help you break the law.
Hopefully, you see how this all works.
But, there’s a bit of a caveat to the whole thing.
Naturally, Google systems are not perfect, so you might sometimes accidentally find illegal information.
Still, as a general rule, this is something Google doesn’t want you to know.
Yet, even that isn’t quite the right way to describe it.
Google might actually know tons of illegal stuff, but the algorithm won’t share any of it with you.
From the perspective of search results, Google might as well not have such information.
#2 Non-Digital Information
Our first entry was a little bit weird, but this one makes a lot more intuitive sense.
Google cannot provide you with information that doesn’t make sense in a digital format.
Consider this. Maybe you want to know what an exotic flower smells like.
You can’t exactly get your hands on the flower, so you Google it and read about the scent.
It might seem like Google knows what the flower smells like, but it doesn’t.
You can read all of the descriptions in the world, but it’s never the same thing as actually smelling the flower for yourself, and Google definitely doesn’t have a sense of smell.
At least, they haven’t announced any computer-smelling projects so far.
I’m not sure I’m ready for scratch and sniff Google . . .
Really, though, this is a small example in a big category of knowledge and information.
Google can display images and play sounds for you, and with those features, it can convey an unfathomable amount of information.
But at least for now, those are the limits. Google doesn’t know anything that exists outside of the visual and audio.
#3 The Future
This one seems pretty obvious, right?
No one knows the future, so naturally, Google doesn’t know the future either.
Yet, when you use advanced technology enough, sometimes it feels like these systems know more than they should.
In some cases, it can feel like they really can predict the future.
How did Google know to start showing you ads for a new car a week before yours broke down?
The truth is that Google processes more information than I can put into words.
With all of that information processing, the algorithms can identify incredibly reliable trends, and sometimes, Google does know things before you do.
But, as creepy as it can all feel, Google still can’t really know the future.
By all means, you can Google things about the future, and you will see countless predictions.
The algorithm doesn’t know which predictions are actually reliable.
Instead, it only knows which are the most popular, and that’s not real fortune telling.
Google doesn’t know the future, and that might be a little comforting.
#4 The Undiscovered
You can really understand the human element behind Google when you consider this perspective.
Google actually doesn’t know anything that extends beyond human understanding.
By all means, the powerful processing enables Google to figure out trends that you and I would never realize on our own, but it’s all still based on human understanding.
Google can’t tell you what dark matter is.
No one can—at least not yet.
For all of its power, Google can’t solve the kinds of problems that are still beyond the reach of human limitations.
And, this applies to a lot more than just advanced physics.
Google can’t really tell you what human thought is.
It can’t tell you why Genghis Khan decided to take over the world.
It can’t provide you with any information or knowledge that isn’t already in the head of a person somewhere.
Again, Google can offer attempts to explain all of these things. But it doesn’t really know—not any more than the rest of us.
#5 The Undecipherable
That last one got a little deep.
This one is not so complicated. Google can’t tell you things that it doesn’t understand.
Let me explain.
Have you ever typed in a search and seen the page that says “Your search – [whatever you typed] – did not match any documents.”?
Every day it seems a little tougher to get to this search result, but it still happens.
If you misspell things badly enough or get random enough with your search, you can still stump Google.
So, that is to say, Google doesn’t know things that it hasn’t been trained to understand.
It’s kind of crazy, though.
You can type in some really random combinations on your keyboard, and Google will try its hardest to get you search results.
It took me 11 tries to find something that would finally pop up the message that Google couldn’t find anything.
If I try again in a year, it will probably be even harder.
But, if Google can’t decipher what you’re saying, then it doesn’t know what to tell you.
#6 What You Really Want
This extends pretty well from the previous concept.
If Google can’t understand you, then it doesn’t know what you want.
But sometimes, you type things perfectly, and Google still doesn’t know what you really want.
Here’s an example.
You can type in something with a ton of viable search results, like the name “Goldberg.”
There are a lot of Goldbergs in the world, and Google doesn’t actually know which one you’re after (or if you even wanted to look up a person).
So, it’ll default to the most popular results, which in this case, likely refer to Bill Goldberg or the TV show The Goldbergs.
Depending on when and where you search, you might see different results.
The point is that Google doesn’t ever actually know what you want.
Sometimes it feels like Google can actually read your mind, but it really can’t.
It’s just using math to make the best guess, and because of that, there will always be times when Google can’t even come close to getting you a good result for your search.
This can also pop up if you’re looking for something obscure.
Maybe instead of searching for something with too many competing results, you’re trying to find something that is just hard to find.
Google will give you a bunch of search results, but none of them really match what you’re after.
It’s just another way that Google doesn’t really know what you want.
It’s just trying to provide statistically reliable results, and more often than not, that’s enough.
#7 Why You’re Still Single
I promise I’m not taking jabs at anyone. This is a little bit of a joke that leads to a real point.
You can literally Google “Why am I still single,” and you’ll get a ton of results. Seriously, give it a try. I got back more pages than I can count. So, clearly, Google knows why I’m still single, right?
Of course not. When I do this search, I see tons of articles and blogs offering relationship advice, and some of them might even be useful. Yet, none of those results have anything to do with my actual personal life. Unless you’re a celebrity, the same will hold true for you.
That’s the real point here, though. Google provides you with information, and it does try to personalize that information. But ultimately, it’s showing you websites. So, unless someone has built a website specifically for you, Google can’t actually show you specific things about yourself.
Google doesn’t actually know you. It only knows your digital habits, and that runs into some pretty stiff limitations.
#8 The Meaning of Anything
We’re steering back into the land of philosophy.
You can Google pretty much anything. Google can give you facts, definitions, raw information, and a whole lot more. Google can realistically and effectively answer a ton of your questions.
But, Google can never tell you what any of it means. Don’t get me wrong. People on the internet will constantly try to tell you what things mean. To an extent, I’m doing that right now.
Yet, Google can’t really derive meaning for you. It can only provide information. What meaning you draw from that information will always be up to you. As much as we can all wonder about the influence of Google and other incarnations of modern technology, meaning is still all yours.
#9 What’s Offline
I talked about digital information earlier and how Google can’t know things that can’t be digitized. We can expand on that. Google also doesn’t know things that haven’t been digitized.
Even if the information is something Google would manage just fine, Google needs access to that information. So, if you wrote a secret memoir on pen and paper and never shared it with anyone, then Google wouldn’t know anything about it.
How many drawings on refrigerators do you think completely escape Google’s knowledge? I’ll bet it’s a lot.
And, this is probably the definitive answer of the day. Google doesn’t know anything that is offline. All of the knowledge gaps in the Google directory can relate to this. Google doesn’t know anything about events missing from historical records. It doesn’t know what you texted your friends yesterday (actually, it probably knows that one). But, it doesn’t know what’s on the handwritten letter you sent that one time.
Google does not and never will know anything that remains entirely offline.
#10 The Truth
This is actually Google’s biggest problem, and I promise this isn’t actually more deep philosophy.
Google is a system that catalogs websites to try to provide you with search results. Ultimately, the entire purpose is geared around pairing you with the websites Google thinks you want to see. That’s the entire nuts and bolts of the whole thing.
So, if you want a particular piece of information, you type in your search, and Google does its thing.
At no point in that process does Google discern whether or not the results you get are objectively true.
To be fair, Google engineers have put a lot of research into fact-checking and trying to make search results as reliable as possible, but the system doesn’t actually have the ability to discern the truth.
Because of that, it’s very, very easy to use Google to find factually incorrect information. If you try to look up Marlyn Monroe’s birthday, Google doesn’t actually know if the websites it presents are correct with that information. Instead, it compares information across sites and assumes that the ones presented are the ones that are right.
Here’s the crux of the whole thing. When information is extremely popular, then Google’s “truth” accuracy is very high. If you Google who won the most recent World Cup, you can trust the results. But as information becomes more obscure, Google has a much harder time guarding against inaccuracies.
Since Google doesn’t actually know what is or isn’t true, you can find lots of wrong information using the search engine.
This is another fun one.
You probably found this article from a Google search. You had a question in mind and looked it up. Google gave you an answer, and here you are.
But, Google can’t tell you why you searched. It never can, even if it tries.
#12 What Google Doesn’t Know
If I can be circular for a moment, Google doesn’t know what Google doesn’t know.
Researching this article, I Googled “What doesn’t Google know,” just to see what popped up.
I got results, but they weren’t terribly conclusive. Google was a little blind to its own knowledge gaps.
Then again, I’ve put this online, and you found it. So maybe, thanks to me, Google actually does know more about its blind spots.