September 5, 2005

categories: press, narcissism
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On the Frontier of Search

I must have talked for two hours with the journalist who wrote this article. It's a perfectly fine article, but I often cringe when I read my own quotes in the press. Here's an example of what I am talking about:

"Search will ultimately be as good as having 1,000 human experts who know your tastes scanning billions of documents within a split second," says Gary Flake, one of just seven Distinguished Engineers at Microsoft, who are paid to think big thoughts. "It will model the human brain." Time Magazine

It's a little frustrating to have a couple of hours distilled down to a sound bite, but so it goes. The issue, here, is that I would never argue that we would literally try to model the human brain in order to make web search better. Anyone working on such models does so in the pursuit of understanding human cognition. That's a great goal, but not one that I am working on at all.

Instead, we are trying to make computers smarter so that they simulate human intelligence. I don't care if I make a computer smarter by simulating the brain, or through some other mechanism (perhaps completely unlike human cognition). I just want smarter computers.

So in the end, the quote makes my ends and means sound confused. Smarter computers for better web search is the ends for me, and brain simulation could be a possible means.