(image from Scientfic American – thanks ID:entity)
I am writing the final chapter of my book (no, not the last…just the last one, I’m writing them out of order, don’t ask….)
In any case, I got the utterly lazyweb idea of asking all the folks I’ve interviewed, in particular the professional thinkers and Big Idea folks, the relatively simple question of: What might the world look like if we had perfect search?
Now, in the process of putting the book together, I’ve been mining my blog quite a lot, and I’ve noticed that the comments section is always better than my posts. As Dan says, our readers always know more.
So I thought I’d ask you guys to indulge me once again. Here’s the email I sent out:
Battelle here, contacting you one last time about search (well, perhaps not the last, but at least I’m close.) The last chapter of my book is entitled “Perfect Search”, in it I run through the many developments in search which might lead us to the Holy Grail – a perfect (or at least the best possible) answer to every question.
From the early draft, I write:
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. It’s capable of discerning between straightforward requests – who was the third president of the United States? – and more nuanced ones – under what circumstances did the third president of the United States foreswear his views on slavery?
This perfect search also has perfect recall – it knows what you’ve seen, and can discern between a journey of discovery – where you want to find something new – and recovery – where you want to find something you’ve seen before.
That’s a long way from the typical search engine of today, but imagining such a service no longer falls in the realm of science fiction. It’s the stated goal of nearly major player in IT today – be it IBM, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, and scores of others.
I then go on (and on…) describing various interesting forays into creating more perfect search – domain specific, federated, semantic, personal, local, etc. etc. etc.
But the real payoff is toward the end. This is where I want to stretch out and imagine a world where perfect search exists, and conjure up the implications of such a place. What opportunities arise when knowledge can be so easily gathered? What threats? How might this change our social structures, our politics, our economy?
I am sending this note to a special set of thinkers and visionaries with whom I have conversed in the course of writing this book, and beyond. Because you have suffered me to date, I ask you to suffer me once more, so that I might gather your insight, and those of your peers, into a special section of the book.
Please accept my thanks in advance for asking this of you, any response, no matter how trivial or considered, will be most appreciated and recognized.
So, what do you think?