“Have you been to Neuschwanstein, Mr. Coats?”

I was delighted by this commercial for Google, earlier this year.

In it, a young man on an interview can’t figure out the first thing to say to the gentleman he is about to interview with. Suddenly, he notices a picture of a castle on the wall. He scans it with his handheld, and Google informs him that it matches the Neuschwanstein Castle. Suddenly, he has his ice breaker . . .

Although it’s obvious the ad writer wanted to emphasize the ability of search engines to come up with detailed information instantly (whether they warrant the accuracy or not!), what it suggested to me is that Google was advertising how they can help bullshitters bullshit. Once the young interviewees breaks the ice about castles (since Mr. Coats first question is, “you know of it?”, to which he responds “I’m a big fan of castles!”), what comes next? He either really was a big fan of castles, and just didn’t know this one, or . . . . he’s full of shit!

So Mr. Coats asks, “what castles have you been to?” What’s the guy’s answer, once he can’t rely on the Google app? It could be, that the only castles he really knows are the rooks on a chess board. What does he do, other than go, “uh, uh”?

It’s that bullshitters’ surface knowledge. Surface knowledge. The computer makes it a mile wide and an inch deep.

The trouble with surface knowledge is that, if you don’t know the depth, or the questions that you should be asking, then you really don’t know very much. If you don’t have any idea what you really need to know, you don’t know very much.