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With that unique position, however, comes responsibilities – when Google makes small changes, users’ behaviour can change enormously. The fortunes of whole companies and countless careers live and die by their rankings in search results. “We deal with those responsibilities by having very concrete principles,” says Singhal. “All rankings are decided algorithmically, and the focus is on user benefit, not advertiser or commercial benefit. We ask ourselves, ‘Can a random company who does not want to be part of any Google system be harmed by a change we’re proposing?’ If they are, we won’t do it.”
The problem Google faces is not simply finding a mathematical model for language, however. “When it comes to human language understanding we are still at the toddler stage,” says Singhal. “But over the next ten years we will attain the level of an eight or nine year old. We’ll be able to perfect experiences we don’t fully trust today”.
That means speech recognition that works, and putting databases together so that they play nicely. The results, Singhal says, “sound like science fiction”.
...says Manber. “But search is ‘give me what I need not what I said’. And the way people express themselves is often very different from what they need”. So in fact, Google is finding that its job is to find out what people meant, not what they asked for – and then to work out what they’ll be asking for next.
if that's what they're after
"Looking back on it maybe we made the problem worse."
...from a privacy perspective, I don't like the road they're going down, and I think there's a real risk the 'over personalization' and 'overdoing' the drawing of conclusions for users backfiring...
Google co-founder Sergey Brin conceded in an interview that Google's management lacks "emotional intelligence," said the New Yorker's Ken Auletta, author of the best-selling book "Googled: The End of the World as We Know it."
This could be one of a number of threats and stumbling blocks ahead for Google. While Google continues to show extraordinary growth and profitability, a big fault could lie in a company run by engineers who lack the "emotional intelligence" needed to navigate an increasingly complex world of government intervention and public perception.