Google Now Uses Big Data to Improve Search Engine Results
Everybody Lies: Big Data is a fascinating book by Steven Pinker that charts the evolution of lying over the years. The book title is taken from the mantra ‘If somebody wants to lie, then lie’ and this book explores how and why people change their minds, seemingly on a moment’s notice, about their past behaviour. This isn’t your average crime novel; the focus is on the changing lying mechanisms of humans over time. The premise is that lying is a habitual response that can be unlearned, thus becoming untethered to the lies we tell on a daily basis. The first half of the book covers how lying started, where it went, and what happened to it in different environments and historical periods. The second half covers the changes in lying and its impact on society as a whole.
Everybody Lies: Big Data and the Social Media by Steven Pinker are essentially a social science thesis about the changing norms of lying, and why it became a problem in the twenty-first century. The premise is that lying started with the rise of mass communications and gradually evolved into a system of selective lying. The authorship is solely the author; the book has been written as a study in social science. The book uses various interviews with experts, including psychologists and political scientists, as well as major figures in business, law and other fields. The interviews provide rich detail about how lying starts progress and evolved into a system, as told by the expert interviewees.
Most people would probably associate the rise of Google and other search engines with the rise of Google’s popularity, but nothing could be further from the truth. The original purpose of search engines was to find information; the point at which people use them today is for commerce, sales and marketing. And Google is just one of the many players in this marketplace, along with Yahoo and Bing, all of which have expanded beyond what even Pinker could have imagined. This is one of the principal trends in big data science, and is not a phenomenon unique to Google. Everyone who works in search, sales and marketing should be aware of this.
Everybody Lies: Big Data and the Social Media do point out the fundamental flaw in Google’s approach to indexing webpages: people tend to link to the wrong webpages. This goes back to the original problem with indexing; humans are lazy. As a result, most people would rather visit the homepage of a company instead of to the homepage of a related website. In other words, Google’s logic is flawed. Nevertheless, the same goes for other search engines, including Bing and Yahoo.
Everybody Lies: Big Data and the Social Sciences also point out another flaw in the way that people search for information on the internet: they use search engines and social networks to find what they need. In other words, Google and Yahoo are providing data sets, which are already pre-correlated in terms of their audience and target market, which mean that it’s too difficult for a user to make sense of. This could also mean that a person who uses such a platform to find what he needs to know is already limited in his knowledge base, and is likely to miss key points. This could be problematic for those who rely heavily on the insights provided by such a system.
Everybody Lies: Finally, everybody Lies involves the way in which Google’s new feature, “Google Now,” will make it easier for users to browse through their data sets. The new feature makes it so that a user can scroll through his or her own web browsing history and see what was recently viewed. It’s not clear whether this feature is merely cosmetic or if it will have significant, and unforeseen consequences for privacy concerns. If and when it becomes a major issue, Google may have to change the way it conducts itself in the future.
Everyone Lies: One way in which Google Now will force people to think about privacy is through its use of language. The service will ask users to choose whether or not they want Google to share their Web browsing history with third parties. To many people, this will sound like common sense, but to those in the research community, it could represent a huge potential breach in the standard practices of data science. As large companies such as Yahoo and Microsoft have previously done, Google will combine personal information gathered from one’s Gmail account with the massive amounts of data that these companies routinely collect about their customers. If these practices don’t go down well with the research community, it could spell disaster for the field.
Google’s new approach to data science comes at a time when it has proven vulnerable to criticism. After all, Google’s decision to not join the wave of companies who have already jumped on the bandwagon by offering their own social networking tools may have backfired. The company’s new plan, though imperfect, shows that it has the tools to meet the challenges of big data science. Its success or failure could well be determined not only by how well it adapts to changing consumer preferences, but also by how it responds to criticism. As social media continues to shape our world, big data science may very well be the next frontier for researchers.