Is Google Predictive Search Too Much?
Does it sometimes feel like Google reads your mind? You’re surfing the web and suddenly an ad for something pops up that you were just thinking about a day or so before. Creepy, right? Of course, it’s not telepathy, it’s just Google reading into your searches and website visits to tailor ads for you.
What if they were able to take this one step further and provide you information before you knew you needed it? Welcome to the new world of predictive search.
A Google Version of Minority Report
Minority Report is one of my favorite stories and movies. It centers on a police pre-crime unit that arrests people for crimes before they happen. Three telepaths connected to computers predict the crimes and let police arrest the bad guy before they do anything wrong.
Needless to say, things go bad. Tom Cruise runs around shooting guns and jumping from buildings but saves the day in the end. Ah, the Hollywood ending.
Google currently uses machine learning (it’s a much less scary word than artificial intelligence) to better understand your search queries and what you’re looking for. That way if you type “big purple guy with the shiny glove,” Google understands you mean Thanos from Marvel Infinity War.
What if they used the same machine learning to not only understand the context of your query but predict what information you might look for in the future? Google Discovery is designed to do just that.
While it may lack the submerged telepathic siblings and Tom Cruise’s fabulous hair, it’s basically the search version of Minority Report. It’s getting you information before you know you need it.
The Extended Search Conversation
Before you grab a tinfoil hat and stockpile spam because Google has officially become a technological God bent on destroying all life in the universe, understand that predictive search is still in its infancy and won’t tell you what toilet paper to buy once Google realizes you’re down to one roll.
It’s based around the concept of an extended search conversation. Most searches are one and done, where you get the answer and that’s it. There are other searches that extend far beyond the initial search term but relate to an overall vision.
For example, you’re planning a camping trip. You might start by looking for campsites within a specific area. You look at prices for renting a car, camping equipment, etc. These searches can happen over several days.
Google Discovery sees these related searches and provides you with information you might want about a camping trip. It could show you restaurants near the sites in case you get hungry. It can show you the equipment you might need or articles on treating poison ivy.
You’re searching for one thing, and it’s giving you the information you might look for in the near future. It might end up showing you a camp stove that you didn’t think about buying, etc.
Good Idea or Big Brother
I’m a big believer in better living through technology. I have smartphones, smart devices, and even a VR headset so I can kill zombies and feel like I’m really there. That being said, I’m not sure how much I like Google thinking for me.
Sure, it sounds great, but how long before there’s Google Ads integration. A few years down the line it’s telling you what sponsored soft drinks go great with your recipe and which athletic show you need for that morning exercise routine you were researching.
Every time I see stuff like this I picture the movie Wall-E and the giant Buy ‘N’ Large megastore that ultimately destroys the Earth. Ease of living is fine, but we can’t let go of our independence. Things didn’t work out so well for the pre-crime division in Minority Report.