WolframAlpha's Future

I was made first aware of the WolframAlpha project by a couple of colleagues who were looking into artifical intellgence and were really impressed with this new search engine that could understand questions and respond back with natural responses. As of right now, all search engines have a tough time with translating nature language questions into data from analysis. A typical search can be tripped up with the choice of words used by an individual and may get the individual user incorrect results to their search query. This can make search for the correct information on search engine especially difficult to those who do not have the background in library and/or information sciences.

A real language (as opposed to a search language) method of finding information on a search engine would be extremely handy and would advance how the Internet could be used. This would make WolframAlpha a “computational knowledge engine” for the Web. Because of its ability to go beyond the simple regurgitation of documents that contains parts of the answer. If Wolfram Alpha can actually compute the answer to a posed question in the time it takes a user to scan through the other open frames on their web browser, WolframAlpha could redefine how we interact with the Internet.

If we are to believe that the web is a conversation from one-to-few or one-to-some, then the design and organization prevents an interactive conversation between the two parties. Web artifacts are framed in a context in a similar nature to the traditional publishing of a book or a magazine. The difference is merely the addition of other forms of media (audio, video, animation). To create a conversation, one must have (surprising enough) two parties communicating with each other. Since WolframAlpha should have the ability to answer certain kinds of questions in a form that is close to natural communication, it could be the starting point to the "Web as Conversation."

It is important to note that this is not the first attempt at such a service. Cuil was designed based on the same principle early and really was considered broken as it could not handle the strain of a large group of individuals using the site at the same time. If WolframAlpha can support being Dugg or SlashDotted or even an onslaught by the Twit Army and can maintain the same level of service, it will be huge.


Thoughts on the Future Imperfect

During the summer of 1996, I experience my first taste of freedom. Since I recently graduated high school, I had the summer to myself. There was no track or cross country practice. There was no band rehersals. It would be three months till I found a job.  I had no responsiblities to anybody. So, I explored the last public space in our town, the mall. Those days, the mall had the best gaming shop in my area. I got to search through the new card and board game, look at the comics and explore the latest video tapes. This experience formed my current research interest. I played "Netrunner" in the store with my friends, watched "Tek War" and some other cyberpunk movies and read the works of William Gibson and Douglas Adams.

I thought computers would be more present in the "public sphere." What I mean is that I had images of the information superhighway being virtually rendered to anybody who jack into the system through some piece of hardware that was connected to his or her body. The user could touch the electronic representation of the Internet and be able to float on the network and fly to the different destinations online. As you can tell by typing on your keyboard and looking at the information on a screen, this didn't happen.

I guess most of my academic exploration online has been simply trying to resolve the disconnect between the world laid out by these mediated futurists and the world as it is now. I was expecting a cyber-distopia to exist after a collapse of some world power. Some wanted the future to have jetpacks, I wanted VR5.


Socializing in the "Awesome Depression"

Scott Brown wrote a really humorous article in Wired Magazine regarding how our generation would deal with a depression the likes that has only been seen by our great-grandparents during the "Great Depression."  The question that come from this half-hearted look into the future is what are we doing to prepare for the economic crash. The only point that really seems to be connecting many of the discussion I have found online is that networking will be more vital than ever before in order to find your next job. For the last three posts, I have been dealing with microblogging (specifically Twitter) and how information that an individual posts on these microblogging site can be used against them in the form of identity theft and data fraud. However, it is equality as important to maintain a presence on large social community like Facebook and Twitter to show people you are a.) an actual person and not a robot, b.) someone who has talents that can be used & c.) a "people person." As much as it pained me to use that last phrase, it really takes some "social capital" to be able to communicate with a wide array of people (like those present in an open social network like Facebook or Twittter). It would seem that this could be pretty for months to come. Therefore, it is important to use inexpensive resources to deliver your message and maintain your reputation in your field. Sites like Facebook and Twitter can help you with this mission.