Like most of us in IT I really don’t have a whole lot of time to read all the magazine subscriptions and newsletter I receive. But I keep a pile next to me my bed post and every so often I catch up. This was the case last night.
I was reading eWeek (Sept6, Vol.27 no.15) and came up on the printed version of a blog post from Clint Boulton. Ever since Google came up with the brilliant PageRank algorithm it would seem like they have been relentless in enhancing and expanding its application. They keep track of everything in the hopes of “predicting” your next inter-action. Boulton gives an example where it’s one of your friend’s birthday and Google’s algorithm “suggests” a restaurant based your past purchases and location. In Eric Schmidt words, “I actually think most people want Google to answer their questions….They want Google to tell them what to do next…”. Sounds scary and helpful at the same time.
All of a sudden, I am transported back to the first Terminator movie where the Robot (aka “The Terminator”) has an answer to give and the 3 answers relevant replies pop up in his visor, I won’t print what chosen. Funny how AI talks always brings images of the Terminator movie!
I can see why some people will have some issues with that. Personally, I can’t predict my brunette’s mood or replies, yet I am to believe that a series of axioms and statistics collected on her habits will be able to? Ahem, I have learned early not to say never, but it’s a fine line between “suggesting”, “deciding” and “reflecting”.
Can your next want or need, be expressed based on the prediction results of a decision tree? Possibly, but I think human interactions are more complex than that and the weight of the carrier (the person or program) giving you advice varies greatly from one individual to another. Is the value of the restaurant prediction Google sends me greater than the one I get from the list of friends (my Facebook or other network) or from my favourite gastronomic beat reporter? Google would like to think not, but, I would tend to think that word of mouth is still more prevalent since we are interacting with a “real” person perhaps even not for the first time, so potentially having created a bond of trust with that person.
Google is on to something here. I understand the strategy and where they are going, I do however that, other that traditional adwords, they have not yet found their way. After all, in this technocracy, all of this research should serve some form of economic gain.
The more we try to understand human interactions, the more we need to focus on the basics. In universal terms, the relative novelty of technology is still no match for the complex social interaction that Darwinian evolution has brought us to where we are today.