Finding Hope for the Future in Search
TED’s 30th anniversary has brought its conferences to our beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia, setting the stage for what organizers believe to be a venue that can do even more to inspire creative thinking, dynamic ideas, and conversations among local communities.
One of those talks recently hosted Google CEO Larry Page in an on-stage interview with veteran TV newsman and journalist Charlie Rose. Prompted by Rose on where Google is and where it is going, Page’s voice was soft and steady as he imagined a future filled with hope and opportunity using technology to enrich our lives.
I can’t help but reflect on the path I have taken to partake, however small, in that vision.
I’ve been working in Search for the last 18 years of my professional life. That statement alone evokes a seemingly vain attempt to find the elusive, but it’s nothing short of the painstaking creative process of putting together rich stories and conversations in skillful language and deconstructing them, one piece of code at a time. The result is information made more readily available for search engines and useful by people who search for them on the Internet.
I work on the opposite side of the user, separated by a search interface, preparing information that is positioned to provide the right answers to specific queries in the shortest amount of time with the fewest amount of mouse clicks.
Google currently dominates the market for that search interface. Yet with all the resources of the world’s third largest company dedicated to understanding our intentions and the world’s information, Page admits, “We’re still very much in the early stages of that. We’ve been at it for 15 years already, but it’s not at all done.”
To improve things incrementally, Google uses machine learning that crosses between computer science and neuroscience. As a result, one of its computer programs is learning about cats with no training or notion about cats, but just from watching videos on YouTube. This is a major technological breakthrough demonstrating artificial intelligence! (I wonder if such intelligence is already at play in the disciplines of pathology and epidemiology on the Google search network, helping scientists to find the cure for HIV/AIDS, cancer, polio, or even the common cold, and making the cure available for all.)
Page envisions an Internet that is made more accessible using a network of weather balloons strategically placed all around the world. He would like to make medical records available anonymously to medical research doctors in order to save lives, perhaps a hundred thousand this year alone. For now, he extolls a potato farmer in Africa for finding the solution to his problem with ant infestation upon searching for “potato diseases” and sharing the usefulness of the Internet to help the lives of other people in his community, including his grandmother.
Before there was Google, which set out to embark on a mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, there were people like us: marketing strategists, information architects, creative designers, content developers and webmasters. Together we have been making information more relevant for search engines and, ultimately, for all users. Not only are we contributing to the overall success and profitability of our clients’ business by improving the quality and relevance of their information and making them highly visible on search engines, we are making a difference in the quality of living of people in our communities and the rest of the world who find such information useful in their lives.
My hope for the future is delivered fresh at your fingertips in your daily search, so that you will find the information we created for you to answer your questions, making for a better experience one search at a time and, perhaps, life a little bit easier at the end of the day.
I’m optimistic that our work in search can only make the world a better place!
Larry Page: Where’s Google going next?