Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forSeptember 9th, 2004 | back to home

9 September 2004

John Battelle asks:

Imagine the ability to ask any question and get not just an accurate answer, but your perfect answer – an answer that suits the context and intent of your question, an answer that is informed by who you are and why you might be asking. The engine providing this answer is capable of incorporating all the world’s knowledge to the task at hand be it captured in text, video, or audio… What opportunities arise when knowledge can be so easily gathered? What threats? How might this change our social structures, our politics, our economy?

As far as I am concerned, the danger is not what would happen if such perfect search existed – the danger is that “good enough” search might exist that seemed to deliver near-perfect results but actually relied on still flawed or commercially biased algorithms and had an underlying database that was incomplete. People might forget to use other better but harder to use sources of information and those other sources might gradually disappear. They might also put too much trust in the results they get.

In fact I fear this is already beginning to happen with Google.