When Search Takes Fewer Than Zero Seconds: Page 2

The future of search will give you the answer before you even ask.
Posted September 12, 2012

Mike Elgan

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Contextual preemptive search has four components:

1. Data harvesting. The idea is to harvest as much contextual information as possible about you and your life -- when you sleep, what you buy, who you know, what you like and so on, as well as where you are and where you’ve been.

2. Answer streams. As you live your life, your devices will be constantly displaying new information based on your context, including what’s going on where you are. It will listen to your conversations and even listen to the show you’re watching on TV, and pop up helpful and interesting facts and information related to whatever you’re currently experiencing.

3. Initiative. In addition to being passive, the future of search will also be active. It will occasionally alert you to rare opportunities, new events and important facts.

4. Agency. In some cases, the search engine of tomorrow will do things on your behalf. For example, it may add things to your calendar, or even buy things and have them sent to you.

5. Learning. These won’t be off-the-shelf capabilities, but determined by your own behavior. It will learn which pre-emptive search results you interact with, and favor more like those in the future. It will get the hint when you constantly turn down or reject certain types of suggestions.

With these capabilities, the behavior known as “searching the web” will go away. We won’t do searches, for the most part. Selected search results will be generated constantly, and also will come to us when we need them.

All this raises a disturbing question, which is: If knowledge is always presented to us in real-time, why learn?

Yes, it would be nice if we all went to school and learned how to think. But why study facts, when correct facts are always right in front of us?

To illustrate that point, imagine this contextual preemptive search running on the cell phones of kids in science class. When the teacher asks if anyone can tell her the second law of thermodynamics, the phones hear that and pops up the answer before the teacher even chooses one of the raised hands.

The teacher might want to force the students to turn off their phones. But why? In what future scenario will these answer machines not be present in the kids’ lives?

One possible outcome will be that kids will forget how to ask questions. And why wouldn’t they when asking questions is no longer necessary in order to get answers?

When everybody has the answers all the time, we’ll ask: Is knowledge obsolete?

I wonder what Google will tell us.

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Tags: Google, search, apps

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