I was reminded today that the Atlanta Braves are playing the Chicago Cubs. Google Now on my Android phone notified me of this fact in what was probably the first time it has volunteered information that was remotely helpful or interesting.
Previously, I wasn’t convinced that my “intelligent personal assistant” had me pegged right, mainly because I submit a lot of off the wall search queries. Or, so I think. Google Now may or may not know this. Or, maybe it knows me better than I do.
So, there you have it. It took a while, but Google Now finally reached a level of understanding about me that could signal the beginning of its usefulness to me – like a personal assistant that one day surprises you with a resupply of your favorite whiskey.
OK, not quite that great yet.
Building The Perfect Bubble
A recent article at news.com.au entitled “How Google Distorts Your View of the World” has again highlighted a phenomenon referred to as the “filter bubble.” Here’s how it works: Google algorithms determine your search results based not just on your search query but also your search history. While most of the time this yields what we might consider to be more “relevant” or “higher quality” search results, several downsides and their impacts are emerging.
It’s one thing to have read only the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, for example, to shape your view of the world. But, in the past when you sought additional information, that process would kick up a lot of stuff that either you didn’t agree with – other viewpoints – as well as some junk information to be disregarded.
Still, exposure to other viewpoints, and even the junk, has its benefits.
Now, a search engine (probably Google) is most likely the vehicle with which additional information is sought. And, guess what? You’re likely to see results – and most importantly for the business model, ads – that its algorithms determine are most in line with your search history and what it has determined are your personal preferences.
Therefore, as our ability to access information has expanded dramatically, we ourselves are also quietly working to limit it.
So What? Just Turn It Off.
You can just turn it off right? Yes and no. You can turn off Google Now or customize it. You can perform searches without signing in to your search engine.
However, this kind of artificial intelligence is becoming so pervasive that it is difficult to know when you’re actually engaged in an act of pure “discovery” or actually “happening along” new information on your own.
Siri. Shopping suggestions. Streaming media suggestions. Newsfeeds in social media. Yep, those are driven by a kind of artifical intelligence as well.
Still interested? You might also like my future blog post on the topic of newsfeeds too. Meanwhile, I have a game to watch soon.