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Eric Schmidt on the Future of Google Search

 9:00 pm on Sep 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

Michael Arrington at TechCrunch published an interview with Google's CEO Eric Schmidt [techcrunch.com], under the sensational headline "Google CEO Eric Schmidt On The Future Of Search: Connect It Straight To Your Brain."

Long-term Borg ideation aside, the interview also contained Schmidt's comment about where he sees Google in ten years.

So I don't know how to characterize the next 10 years except to say that we'll get to the point - the long-term goal is to be able to give you one answer, which is exactly the right answer over time.

I am struck nearly dumb by that statement. The absurdity of thinking that there can even BE "the right answer" just jumped out at me. Has he been living with data so long that he lost touch with the real human world?

Organize the world's information? Maybe a bit grandiose, but an OK mission statement. Give us a tool to explore the world's information? That's more what I want from Google.

But tell us "the right answer" for any query? I shudder at the Orwellian vision. I am not having any of that, thank you very much.

I can only hope that he misspoke or his remarks were poorly reported.



 9:04 pm on Sep 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

It will be quoted as often as the "cesspool stuff" ;). Personally I think the goal of Google is to dumb down the Internet users and make them lazy to the point that they are happy to get "the right" answer. :) And in most cases the "right" answer will be in the Adwords section area.

Now I'm educating my users about BING instead.


 9:25 pm on Sep 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

If one has been listening to Goog Exec #1 over the years, you'll have noticed this pattern.

This isn't new.

As I said in that last thread with MC re: Goog Exec #1's outlook.
They have a very black and white,
us v. them vision of the world.

The first warning sign should have been the $1 salary.

Trying a little too hard to
"look like doing the right thing",
instead of actually just DOING the right thing.


 10:02 pm on Sep 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

It reminds me of a 10th grade teacher I had whose test question was "Name the three causes of the Civil War". Of course, he meant spit back the three ideas that he had written on the blackboard the week before.

I got in trouble that day with my answer about British financial meddling to undermine the fledgling nation they saw as a threat ;)

No, this kind of bizarre comment is not new from Schmidt - but I never before saw it quite so starkly expressed. For example, here's more of the Borg idea that he seems to like so much:

...it's the model where the sum of what Google does becomes the third part of your brain – you know, there's a left brain, a right brain and there's a third part where that collective intelligence that Google can help bring to you really helps you get through every day.

Wired interview [wired.co.uk] June 30, 2009

That is the stuff of nightmares and very dark science fiction. If ever Google starts buying medical facilities to do the brain implants...

But the hubris involved in the "one correct answer" model is even more scary when coupled with the Borg hive idea.


 10:26 pm on Sep 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

Unlucky for Goog, and those who think like this,
there's already a 3rd part of the brain called the prefrontal lobes...
which are associated with compassion, empathy, telepathy, and oneness.

Sort of a natural anti-Goog/borg principle.

In reality, Goog and the internet is rather ineptly trying to replicate a natural higher evolotionary aspect of humanity that already exist in potentia.

lol ok ill stop with the metaphysical diatribes ;)


 10:54 pm on Sep 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

I want to play fun here for a sec. I'm don't want to be irrelevant to this thread, so my apology before my comment.

Connect the dots folks:

ip address/cookies - google earth - google street view

If their goal is to know how we think, they are collecting enough information that I believe they are quite close to this mission. One answer. That one right answer. All it takes is a bit of sacrifice on our parts. It's worth it I think ;)

[edited by: MrSavage at 11:07 pm (utc) on Sep. 5, 2009]


 11:02 pm on Sep 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

:)) <= Colour me unsurprised..except that he forgot he was off the "ranch" for a space there ..

Long-term Borg ideation aside,From the interview ...

Why? ..the mindset of those who run the plex is extremely pertinent ..and has been obvious to some of us for a long long time ..

He then took a detour and shared a (non-serious) approach that cofounder Sergey Brin has talked about internally - direct brain implants:

Now, Sergey argues that the correct thing to do is to just connect it straight to your brain. In other words, you know, wire it into your head. And so we joke about this and said, we have not quite figured out what that problem looks like…But that would solve the problem. In other words, if we just - if you had the thought and we knew what you meant, we could run it and we could run it in parallel.

When I (again, jokingly) asked if Google was working on that product, he answered “Well, I wish we were. But we don’t exactly have all the medical clinics necessary to test brain insertion.”

From my post here 48 hours before the interview here [webmasterworld.com]

I'm sure someone in the plex has dreams where we all have an implanted chip soon after birth..and that "allows them to better anticipate what we really want" ..and just a little later in the same dream that becomes to "better tell us what we really want ..and what we really ought to be doing/ thinking" ..some governments would love to team up with them on that one ..the Chinese government apparently have the same dream ..there are others closer to home than some us might like to think ..

Way to go ...Ooon Yalliman Eric ..

( is Larry locked in the refrigerator? )

Brown Tshirts dont suit me ;)..so I'll have to pass on the Googley vision of the perfect future ..plus I remember the original koolaid ..it opened your mind as opposed to sent you looking for how to code in sig runes..

Robert Charlton

 11:09 pm on Sep 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

From professional experience both as an interviewer and an interviewee, I think Schmidt's comments were probably verbatim, but most likely taken slightly out of context and not edited to clarify.

The search that Schmidt used as an example in the article was a factual search with an unambiguous answer. I think that was what he was talking about, and that the rest was simply crappy editing of an admittedly "meandering" discussion about disambiguation... now magnified here to earthshaking proportions.

That said, Google's recent approaches at mandatory disambiguation have been annoying, and it would nice also to have an "advanced" option where they'd leave things alone.


 11:20 pm on Sep 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think Schmidt's comments were probably verbatim, but most likely taken slightly out of context and not edited to clarify.

The first few times, I've given this argument the benefit of allowing naivete.

After a few years of him making statements that are similar to this
(very many times, I've seen him make comments like this on LIVE TV... no editing... in front of cameras),

it SOUNDS exactly like it does in this current interview:
* Creepy,
* Borderline big brother,
* Something he should, BY NOW, know better than to "slip" up on,
if he was really concerned about being mis-interpreted. (how's that for infamous Google "genius")

The Occam's Razor [en.wikipedia.org] explanation is that he DOES have dreams that resemble many people's concerns,
NOT that he keeps getting misquoted by "conspiracy theorists".


Seriously, I keep waiting for him to say he's hoping Adwords in the future is like the Ads in Minority Report

Why would you make ANY BORG references when you're Goog? Ever?


 11:50 pm on Sep 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

From professional experience both as an interviewer and an interviewee, I think Schmidt's comments were probably verbatim, but most likely taken slightly out of context and not edited to clarify.

With all due respect Robert Charlton ..and mindfull that you are the mod on this thread ..what you have just said amounts to "thats probably exactly what he said" but "it might have been taken out of context" and "probably wasnt edited to clarify" ..not quoting yourself but putting my paraphrasing in quotes for "clarity"..

Why the reticence to take his comments at face value and as he meant them to be ..why cut him the slack ..he has form ..he means it ( and he thinks that not enough people ( we are a minority ..those who take a professional interest in the search engines and their policy ) are listening to make a problem ..the rest of the world just wants free which is why G links to ( via search ) whatever you want ..legal or ( illegal ) ..bread and circuses ..and pays publishers ( those with the technical knowledge and thus a potential voice to cry "alarm" ) to stay quiet via adsense ..

the "Borg" knows how to make dog leashes ..and the hive mind knows it's for our own good ..and silencing dissent is as easy as applying a "penalty" ..and making the offending page lost in serps ( page 10 or worse will do the trick ) ..Neo and the "sealed mouth" sequence in Matrix 1.. didn't only give the "good guys" food for thought ..( first "you pay to be seen and heard" ..adwords..and then "you say and do what we approve of"..adsense.. "the right answer" or "you will not be
heard" ) ..and ours will be the only voice ..and the "answer will be the right one" ..


 1:08 am on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

All in the name of one, unified consciousness.

"trying to replicate a natural higher evolotionary aspect of humanity that already exist in potentia. "

Bingo. Like celebs or rock stars, a "class instance" of an already patterned archetype.


 2:15 am on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think there may be too much reading into the answer, as he made a clarifying statement in his own answer.
how many Americans have - what percentage of Americans have passports?…The Google’s answer was a site, which was somebody who had attempted to answer that question and had multiple answers. It’s quite interesting actually to read…So you go to a very good definitive site. And what I’d like to do is to get to the point where we could read his site and then summarize what it says, and answer the question…Along with the citation and so forth and so on

I would presume that Eric is coming from a place mathematically, where there is only one real answer, something that can be defined and verified by it's peers.


 2:31 am on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

There is 5 billion minds thinking differently out there and maybe 100k pcs working(thinking) alike and replicating the vision of couple people. I guess his mission which is not so hard to accomplish imo, will be satisfying the needs for search of a small portion of the Google's staff only. This company really needs a reality check.


 4:10 am on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

Even in mathematics the idea of "the answer" has a very dappled history. For many centuries zero did not exist, or a negative number, or the square root of minus one. Until Georg Cantor a century ago, everyone assumed that there was only one "size" of infinity. "The answer" to those questions back then was not what we accept as true today.

Assuming that there can ever be "the answer" to a question, even casually, is not a defensible mind-set, IMO. It is naive in the extreme - the kindest thing I can say is that it is imprecise.

However, this was a small excerpt, taken out of context from a full hour interview, and Mr. Arrington has promised us that there is more to come.


 4:52 am on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

I would presume that Eric is coming from a place mathematically, where there is only one real answer, something that can be defined and verified by it's peers.

Do you mean like "What's the definition of Occam's Razor"

Yea, that's already been invented...

It's called Wikipedia.

It's peer reviewed with citations, edited, and all that good stuff.

(He should feel free to research the correct US passport numbers data and add it to the appropriate Wiki page... or create a new one. All very important stuff the world needs to know) :)


For "one true answer" there's only a few things that need apply:

- A calculator
- An encyclopedia/dictionary
- An almanac of trivial facts, to answer questions like:

"Who won the 1945 world series?"
"What's the first name of the boyfriend on Buffy?"
"How many people died in the Great Earthquake of China in the 16 century?"

Lol, THAT'S Google Top Executive's vision for the next 10 years?!

I don't know what's more disappointing...

That Eric wants to turn Goog into a Borg-like entity
that he wants to "reinvent the Wikipedia" and turn Goog into the
"holographic volumetric display answer engine called Dr. Know [en.wikipedia.org]" from the movie AI.

Note: the ETs at the end of this movie had true "oneness consciousness"...and it wasn't based on machines


 5:48 am on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'll worry when Google take that answer from our web sites, show it to users without them having to visit the site.


 6:47 am on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

koan, I think that's quite a real and practical concern. Their experiment with a long-snippet format was already doing a bit of that - and also could be a step on the road to giving "the right answer".

Reference: Pros and Cons of Rich Snippets and Microformats [webmasterworld.com]


 7:20 am on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

koan, I think that's quite a real and practical concern.

It's probably too late to change now but (climbs on high horse) this is always going to be a concern where the main search engine results are provided by a profit making concern that has to balance the results it provides with the profit it makes.

That is why I have been advocating the development of a viable alternative - non profit search engine - for several years. Internet search is very much a part of all of our lives now and also part of our education system. I am uncomfortable that people happily leave this in the hands of a commercial behemoth.

From January 2006 - [webmasterworld.com...]

I have nothing against Google but I am not happy that a commercial entity is controlling the world's information in this way.

[edited by: tedster at 7:24 am (utc) on Sep. 6, 2009]
[edit reason] fix link - the pagination breaks for some members [/edit]


 7:25 am on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

Makes those meta descriptions more and more important, doesn't it? Don't encourage their software to create a snippet.


 8:53 am on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

I've read this thread 3 times and the first two I just decided to think about it for a while, because all I could do was shake my head...

When I first joined here I wrote a rather lengthy post that was snipped by the mods, and I can understand why... It was 'out there' and went against what the people at G kept saying. The basic summary of the post was, 'I would try to get to one penny a click...'

One of the things you have to factor in to the equation is if G stops sending people to websites, because G 'provides the right answer' they lose quite a bit of the adsense revenue generated by websites running adsense, because they would have to depend on other search engines sending people there or people finding the sites running adsense by some other means.

But, if G could 'provide the right answer' via 'summary' or some other means, and only sent visitors to adwords advertisers, would they make more money? Only G mgmt can answer the question, but if a 'summary' or 'right answer' was provided and a visitor still wanted to see another website they had to click on an adwords advertiser G's 'per click' revenue would skyrocket...

I personally think it's a bit of a scary situation, and it really leads me to believe, as a site owner, going 'Google Free' (as I posted I am trying to do in another recent thread) by finding other (search engineless) ways to generate traffic to the newest sites I am creating is a good idea.

Really, whether the statement is in or out of context, it is absolutely mind-boggling to me when I really sit down and think about it along with all the possible implications...


 9:25 am on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

you get an answer when you ask a question. When google first hit the net it NEVER answered questions it just provided information on a query. Now we move to a situation where its ALWAYS looking to provide an answer when information is all thats required. Its the total opposite of why it was so huge at the time. Its a shame. It would be handy if they could at least provide a data center that handled legacy algos from the early days so at least some of us die hards can still find the little gems of info that made google so addictive.


 9:43 am on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

I agree but in some ways entering a search query is asking a question. In other words, "Can I have information on [search query]"

Some searches only have one answer. If someone searches for "highest mountain in Scotland" then there's a good chance that they only want to know the name of the mountain. One answer with citations will therefore do. If they search for "Ben Nevis" they are probably seeking general information on Ben Nevis.

Similarly, if they search for "climbing on Ben Nevis" they are clearly looking for information on this. There is no single answer to this and many other queries and there never will be.

Am I rambling?


 11:00 am on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

With personalization a search engine aspires to give that specific searcher the "right answer" for that specific searcher. Not sure why anyone even sees that as interesting, let alone controversial.

Schmidt is just repeating the personalized search fantasy the engines have.


 11:25 am on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

yes i know that many queries are in fact true questions. My only point is that the over riding vision has changed from providing information to answering questions and to my eyes and many others its having a negative impact on what set google apart in its early days. So i reiterate, the main benefit of what google provided over other engines is disappearing and it would be great if they could at least let some us still use a legacy algo. Im not saying other engines provide better results for me, but theres now little difference and i cant do the searches i used to do on ANY engine. I would love to use an early google engine again even with the spam that came with it. I could find hidden snippets that i now have no chance at finding.


 11:31 am on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

the personalisation goal has always been fundamentally flawed. Its based on the supposition that when you enter a conversation with another human you gain a benefit from being aware of the person and there background and this places you in a better position to reply. However when i want an authorative answer it normally means asking that question to someone who i personally have identified as being well placed to have the information/answer i require. They will often know nothing about me at all. For example many people will go to a conference to hear google employees talk and answer questions on their relevant subject. Its the audience that have the benefit of knowing the google employees and their personal background and not the other way round. In other words personalisation really means users picking a search engine of choice and not the engines knowing all about the person asking the question. The search engine needs to concentrate on providing information and the user will need to ask the right question. This is in actual fact the way it works out in the human world.
The holy grail is infact asking the question to the right person. So your most likely to get the right answer if you ask the question to someone authorative than asking the question to your next door neighbour who knows every detail of your life.


 12:50 pm on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

So what's the problem. He's trying to provide YOU (not everyone) with the tight answer to YOUR question. I see no problem with that.

If he was aiming to provide the wrong answer then I'd be worried.

In the intitial quote he doesn't say that he will succeed, just that he's trying. I don't see the all-encompasing threat in that statement, just a guy aiming for the very top and probably understanding that he'll never make it completely. But aim for non-threatening mediocrity and failure is assured.


 2:17 pm on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

So what's the problem. He's trying to provide YOU (not everyone) with the tight answer to YOUR question. I see no problem with that.

I think we have to consider the question of what the Internet is used for.

If I search for a product name such as "iPod" there is no single answer. I may want information on iPods or I may want to buy one. If I want information I want lots of results so that I can read those that I deem most interesting to me. Similarly I don't necessarily want to buy from the nearest, cheapest or whatever -est that G decides is best for me.

If I search for "Outer Jebrovia" do I need it for study purposes, travel, because I want to invest there or buy a holiday home? There is no single answer so who decides what I want - Google? Sorry, I don't think so!

I could offer many other examples of this but I think you will get the gist. They should not try to fix what isn't broken. They should just concentrate on teaching people how to use search engines properly. They can then concentrate on delivering the best results for less ambiguous searches like "buying holiday homes in Outer Jebrovia" or "best iPod prices", etc.


 3:01 pm on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

If Eric Schmidt were a pope, a president, or a prime minister who said "My dream is to have a perfect world," we'd have people complaining that imperfection is part of life and needs to be protected from Big Brother.

The guy just wants Google Search to be more of a problem-solver and less of a data dump in 10 years than it is now. Good for him. But don't mark "deadline for one single, personalized correct answer from Google with every search" on your 2019 calendar just yet. :-)


 4:53 pm on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

And what I’d like to do is to get to the point where we could read his site and then summarize what it says, and answer the question…

That's a great way to alienate every ad-funded publisher on the web.

I'll worry when Google take that answer from our web sites, show it to users without them having to visit the site.

Koan, the search engines are already doing this, and for an ever-expanding set of queries. It won't end with population statistics and geographical facts.

For any publisher, optimisation is increasingly about what you don't allow the engines to spider, as well as what you do.


 5:19 pm on Sep 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

Experiment for the day: Press the "I'm feeling lucky" button when doing your searches.. and tell us.. do you think that get better in the next 10 years? How many times did you have to go back and actually browse for your answer? How many times was it straight on?
One thing to keep in mind, use the suggested queries as you type..

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