Google is useless...
…it can only give you answers.
He died quite a few years before Google (or the Internet, for that matter) started, but I’m sure Picasso would have said that. And I think there would have been some truth in it.
Yesterday I spent most of my day just trying to find out why my local web-apps had crashed horribly ever since I upgraded to Rails 1.1. It was all a complex dance between Google, my web-apps, and all sort of forums. I painstakingly build my web-apps one-step at a time, several times, just trying to find out exactly what step was causing the problem.
And finally the question emerged: ¿Is there a known problem between RMagick, a ruby image-manipulation library that I use, and Rails 1.1? The answer from Google was nigh immediate: Rails 1.1 requires Ruby 1.84, which in turn kills RMagick. I’ll simply have to do without it until a fix is posted.
It is not the results that drive us, but the query.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of a search engine is not that it provides with immediate answers, but that this immediacy allows us to pose far more questions.
This preponderance of questions over answers is what makes me believe there might be some future in clustering techniques (Marissa Mayer to the contrary): when it works best, clustering works by hinting at good questions.
A question machine
Do we need a question-machine? What is a question-machine? Is that the question to ask? Is the name of god a question? Where can I buy the Whole Earth Review? Is the universe recursive? What is this “fly on the wall” syndrome? When did I first hear the song There Was An Old Woman? What might Sergio Rivas be doing this very moment? Where is that story we wrote together? Was it any good? What is a question? What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it? Is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis true? How is Ray Kurzweil like? Is it true that “the potential for expanded communication between people far exceeds the potential both of language as we think of it ”p">(the stuff we say, read and write) and of all the other communication forms we already use?“ Is the universe discrete or continuous? Will they come when you do call for them? Will we ever achieve post-symbolic communication? Is symbolic systems a career for me? What does a ”http://www.edge.org/q2005/q05_6.html#lanier">"reality conversation" look like? Will there be a singularity? Are we becoming a Gaia? Is there an I? Is everything a prosthesis? Is everything an interface? Will interface design be the art form of the twenty first century? Will I be any good as a web-app craftsman? Will sex ever be free? What are the classic walks of the world? What is meaning? Will I ever find out? Is copyright fair? Are there better solutions? Is it wrong for me to download music illegally? When will this post be lost forever? Why are there so few women in scientific careers? How can Orson Scott Card be so smart and yet so frighteningly conservative? Is abortion the cause for a drop in U.S. crime rates? Was the pill the cause of the sudden increase in U.S. crime rates? Is technology the answer? Will they really build a robotic team that can compete and defeat the world soccer champions by 2050? Is it too late for Esperanto? Will an A.I. ever read these very words? Will anyone? How should we live? Shall we aim at happiness or at knowledge, virtue, or the creation of beautiful objects? If we choose happiness, will it be our own or the happiness of all? Will I die? Will I really be rich by 30? How was Borges like? Did AMLO know about Bejarano and Ponce? Which is the best candidate in this presidential elections? Will Caja Negra work? Will I work at Google? Should I’ve taken that Etsy offer? Would I be happier in New York? Am I scared? Am I too easy on myself? Is it wrong that I don’t finish what I start? Is this good or bad procrastination? Will I ever meet annzah? Am I foolish to believe, deep down inside me, that in my life “everything happens for the best”? How should I love her? What’s char doing right now? Is she happy? Did she find out the title of the song of that ad? What is the equivalent of a word-processor for reading? How can you improve reading? How can you automate understanding? As in, say, how can you automate or speed up the process of understanding a legal document? With diagrams? Is Doug Engelbart’s idea of a parts-of-speech highlighter any good? Is speed-reading real? If it is, why is it so marginal? Will Jef Raskin’s Archy ever pan out?