Google intends to digitize millions of documents from American and English university libraries and make them accessible and searchable over the Internet, something that the French will not let go un-noticed, as both The Economist and the New York Times have reported during the last week.

The Economist in particular is deeply sarcastic about the French plan to fund their own digitalization project, calling it anglophobic. I can’t see how this is a bad idea. Isn’t that what everybody should be doing? In Sweden for example, Projekt Runeberg, have been doing the same thing for a decade.

Besides, Google’s PageRank system is not without problems, and the French culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres might actually have a point: “I do not believe”, he wrote in Le Monde, “that the only key to access our culture should be the automatic ranking by popularity, which has been behind Google’s success.”

Google is indeed excellent for many of our daily routines, but can we really trust it to be the keeper of all knowledge and does it really have the wisdom to tell good from bad?

Let me give you an example. A few months ago, at the WebCred conference, the participants of a panel discussion talked a structural problem with Google. See, in order to rank importance of pages Google count how many other pages are linking to that particular page. What the WebCred participants discussed was if there could be a way of disqualifying some links from that count. Their worry was that if they linked to a page they didn’t agree with, say a democratic blogger who linked to a republican site, that link would still count – and they end up helping their opponent to achieve a higher ranking, and thus more visitors.

My worries are that if this were to be put in practice Google’s index would be completely and utterly bland. The pages that would show up on top would be whatever idea or view people could agree on, and getting low page ranks would in effect silence any opposition. Keep in mind that plurality is an asset – even though search engines would like us all to be satisfied with the same results, regardless of who we are.

This is also the same problem with smaller languages. Even though English is the lingua franca of the Internet, this does not mean that caring for another language is protectionistic, right? Surly, most people recognize the importance of at least some of the French philosophers, to name just one category of which I’m sure the French will digitize.

“I have nothing in particular against Google,” Jean-No?l Jeanneney, head of France’s Biblioth?que Nationale, told L’Express. “I simply note that this commercial company is the expression of the American system, in which the law of the market is king.”

Keep in mind, that in an historical perspective, the really outstanding artists or great thinkers are rarely appreciated in their own time. (Or by the search engines of their own time, I’m sure.)