Sunday, 5 June 2011

Explore the next level of web search engines. They will be smarter.

The structure of the World Wide Web and the business it generates will eventually rely on artificial intelligence search engines to find and assemble a story.
by Tom Thorne
Back in the 1980’s when Tim Berners-Lee and others were formulating the software and protocol structure of the World Wide Web the last application they thought about was the phenomenon of social media and search engines the way they have developed. Of course they foresaw the natural cross promotional aspects of the web’s structure but not how that structure would actually be put to use by web entrepreneurs. It is time now to rethink how the web develops towards 2020.
The big growth on the web is really in two areas. First there is an immediate need for a roadmap into the morass of  web sites that literally grow exponentially each minute of the day. This need spawned search engines and honed the development of sophisticated web browsers. The next level of this software will be a type of artificial intelligence.
Web browsers are the key...
A web browser is really your personal computer, smart phone or ipad entry point into the web. Most operating systems that run these devices to find store and retrieve files are fast smooth and very dumb.  However, the OS and web browser extensions of it are probably the most important software protocol that makes the web accessible from all platforms. It interprets codes and protocols for graphics and text and if needed it even finds a search engine site for you to delve further into the web. Browsers are key to the web wild west. Search engines are the links and maps into its content. Search engines have to get smarter and more sophisticated.
It is interesting that contemporary search engine companies have come to dominate the commercialized web with their huge revenues. They provide essential services to take users into the so called “electronic highway”. They are the pathfinders into the web and while they do this task they pepper users with commercial opportunities and hence become valuable to advertisers. 
On this blog I have activated Google Ad Sense to demonstrate the connection between the marketing promotional mix and finding what you want and linking ads to content. This connection will only get finer and finer delivering highly targeted prospects to advertisers. That speaks to a need for faster, smoother and smarter search engine software.
Personal security issues...
The other side of this is personal security issues as your personal tastes are tracked by advertisers building ultimately a very accurate profile of your interests and habits. Only in the digital electric age is this possible and because it is possible someone, somewhere will be gathering this valuable data. 
Search engines are also in the mapping business and to that end provide intriguing sites like Google Earth employing satellite data to find any coordinate on the planet. No doubt at some moment in time they will mine the Hubble Space Telescope data and provide us with Google Universe and as we become space travelers. Search engines may become the first technique from earth to help us colonize planets.
The real business search engine companies are in, however, is data mining. They find other people’s data and information, massage it with software, and present the user with a list, path, trail, road or if you are really lucky a highway to what you want to find out. They do not take information at this time and turn it into editorial content. They do virtually no editorial work  and limit their interest to finding what is there and report what they find to the user. This activity has been extremely profitable. 
Search engines are only as good as the words they are given by users to look for and as a result their searches are often broad and off the mark and simply demonstrates the lack of subtlety of the current search engines. 
The future of  web search engines...
We are a long way off from a HAL 9000 Super Computer as portrayed in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In that movie HAL is the ultimate search engine. He was programmed with or has access to a network of HALs on earth. This networked system contains all or most of human knowledge.  This fictional HAL machine could distinguish an information request with human like acumen. Although built into the space ship as a set of all seeing and listening terminals this computing device had software that could sense what you needed and speculate on the end use for the information. It understood natural language with all of its subtleties.
Artificial intelligence can make associations of information to create new information and new ideas, speculations and projections. I predict we will have HAL like (artificial intelligence)  search engines on the web long before the end of this decade.  A HAL  like system could produce an online news service without too much human intervention or provide editing hence taking its controllers into the realm of content production for the first time. 
Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are really personal and corporate information hubs.  The strength of social media is it s constantly linked from and to itself from most websites and is the real use of the web’s structures of hyperlinks. It is a clearing place for information, clues, promotions and directions into the web. Social media is online public and media relations. Imagine a search engine that could scour the web for like-minded individuals, papers, articles, etc. and create a knowledge base. A HAL 9000 could do this. “Hal, find everyone who likes Mars bars.”
The visual form of this type of site is YouTube where video information is exchanged. All of these social media sites are open and free to use so again the companies that provide these locations are supported by advertising and by providing user data to those advertisers. 
Smarter search engines have implications...
But smarter search engines could review disparate video in nanoseconds and again show links and make new information available first at the level of compiling and then finally to the level of editing the material together. Such a search engine could take all of the YouTube film, material from security cameras, cell phones, posted jpegs from personal cameras and professional journals and produce a narrative account of what happened in Cairo in Tahrir Square as part of the recent Egyptian Revolution. It would manage all times the footage was shot, the angles of shots related to Google Earth data of central Cairo and recreate the event. It could also indentify people in the crowd and relate this information to passport and identity checks. What a useful tool for secret police forces.
© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

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