Future of Search

I spoke on The Future of Search on Tuesday at Search Engine Strategies San Jose. It was a fun panel. Not only did I get to pontificate (which I love to do), but I also got to be really ‘out there’ — not my typical presentation style, which is typically pretty geeky and focused on the really practical, actionable stuff. I was talking about such things as the Law of Accelerating Returns, quantum computing, the LUI (Linguistic User Interface), AI (as in “autonomous intelligence” rather than the more innocuous “artificial intelligence”), and the Singularity (I’m a big fan of Ray Kurzweil, by the way). If I had had time, I would launched into a discussion of one of my personal favorite future technologies: utility fog.

Here are some of my favorite websites on such topics:

What does all this have to do with search? A lot. Search is going to be nothing like what we envision it today. That’s because we aren’t thinking in exponential terms. We as humans tend to extrapolate forward linearly, because our brains think linearly. When you look forward towards the horizon, do you think about how we’re on a giant curved sphere, or do you think of it as a long straight (flat) drive ahead until you reach your destination? Right, my point exactly. So when we think of all the progress Google (or technology in general) has made in the last 5 years, it’s only natural to think about the next 5 years as an extrapolation of the past 5. But the Law of Accelerating Returns says that technology is evolving at a faster and faster clip, i.e. on an exponential curve.

How can the Law of Accelerating Returns hold true? Because it takes into account such certainties as Moore’s Law and Metcalf’s Law and the unwavering predictability of these laws mean that a very specific subset of things can be forecasted with great accuracy.

So the folks who think that in 10 years teenagers are still going to be exercising their thumbs all day TXTing are mistaken. The LUI will be how we interact with computing devices — interfacing with our computers by conversing with a simulated personality, rather than clacking away at keyboards and keypads. It’s so much more efficient, considering how many words per minute we speak versus type. The advent of the LUI will be as much of a paradigm shift in computing as the shift from DOS prompts to the Windows GUI (graphical user interface). Welcome to a world of ubiquitous computing where we will be wandering around, “computing” with our voice, rather than tethered to a desktop computer, screen, keyboard and mouse. Makes you think a bit differently about “mobile search“, doesn’t it?

Marry that vision with one of swarms of Utility Fog that can make utterly lifelike representations of other people, creatures, and objects in an environment not that unlike Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the Star Trek holodeck. This could allow computers to take a tangible form when you are interfacing with them (via voice or movement). And it could allow you to interact with all five senses when “video conferencing” with far-away loved ones; it would be as if the person were really there beside you! Talk about “total immersion”! Oh, and utility fog will allow us to hover and fly around too. :)

Continuing advances in AI will bring us, in the 2020’s, to a decade where the intelligence of a computer will exceed the intelligence of a human being. Computers will be able to compose symphonies, paint masterpieces, fall in love, etc.

Somehow I don’t think Google will, for too much longer, be basing its importance, authority and trust algorithms on the link graph. I think they will develop an artificial intelligence “expert system” that can use its own judgment in determining whether a web page or website is spammy.

Fun times ahead!