From search engines to knowledge engines

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(Photo credit: PK Gulati’s facebook page!)

Yesterday I had the privilege to listen to who I would justifiably call a genius of our age – Amit Singhal, the guy in charge of coding Google’s search algorithms.

A fascinating subject, Singhal explained the basics of data on the internet and what Google is doing to turn the information we receive through search, not only into knowledge, but a step further into wisdom.

He said that a key issue today is “quality noise” that needs smarter engines to understand things, not just strings. Every year, Google undertakes 500 improvements to improve search with the aim of giving us the most locally relevant results. The ultimate goal is to be able to give us concocted wisdom on any query we search for. The recent launch of Google’s Knowledge Graph is a step towards that. He believes that 5 years down the line, machines will have gathered enough artificial intelligence to compete with human intelligence. This will completely change how we operate by adding a different level of efficiency to our daily lives.

He also said that he sees a future where we wouldn’t even need to take the effort to come to a device and type to search; it will all come to us in an easier, more natural way. Perhaps he is referring to voice search and Project Glass.

What was also great about the session was the quality of questions asked by the audience. Questions were on how social media affects search, to which he said that it will perhaps increase in influence, however social search is still in its infancy. On the subject of Google owning the content Vs just directing the user to the original source, he said that people actually want the results to be original sources, showing not much benefit for Google to own it. And on the subject of search engine optimisation that digital agencies undertake for clients, he said that by actually helping build websites that are better read by search engines, the service is doing a favour to them as long as it is not abused. He also said that Google ads do not and will never have influence over organic results.

The recent debates over Google removing information upon government requests was also a great question posed, which Singhal answered by saying that Google needs to abide by the laws in the countries that they operate and content that goes against those laws is removed on request. However, they are transparent about why content was removed in their transparency report.

I have to mention here that he was beautifully media trained.

The talk and Q&A were intriguing and coming straight from the horses mouth, definitely a rare opportunity to experience that. He managed to inspire even the two kids who attended it with their Google t-shirts on, to ask him smart questions infront of a 150+ sized audience. Organised by dear friend PK Gulati Managing Director and CEO of TiE Dubai, I left the room feeling lucky and inspired to have been engaged with the smartest man in technology today.

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