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A Product that Could Out-Google Google?

Piqued your interest? A new invention for the internet was introduced to the world that could revolutionize the way we use the internet. It's Wolfram Alpha and it's really smart:

The biggest internet revolution for a generation will be unveiled this month with the launch of software that will understand questions and give specific, tailored answers in a way that the web has never managed before.

The new system, Wolfram Alpha, showcased at Harvard University in the US last week, takes the first step towards what many consider to be the internet's Holy Grail - a global store of information that understands and responds to ordinary language in the same way a person does.

The real innovation, however, is in its ability to work things out "on the fly", according to its British inventor, Dr Stephen Wolfram. If you ask it to compare the height of Mount Everest to the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, it will tell you. Or ask what the weather was like in London on the day John F Kennedy was assassinated, it will cross-check and provide the answer. Ask it about D sharp major, it will play the scale. Type in "10 flips for four heads" and it will guess that you need to know the probability of coin-tossing. If you want to know when the next solar eclipse over Chicago is, or the exact current location of the International Space Station, it can work it out...

Dr Wolfram, an award-winning physicist who is based in America, added that the information is "curated", meaning it is assessed first by experts. This means that the weaknesses of sites such as Wikipedia, where doubts are cast on the information because anyone can contribute, are taken out. It is based on his best-selling Mathematica software, a standard tool for scientists, engineers and academics for crunching complex maths.

"I've wanted to make the knowledge we've accumulated in our civilisation computable," he said last week. "I was not sure it was possible. I'm a little surprised it worked out so well."

Dr Wolfram, 49, who was educated at Eton and had completed his PhD in particle physics by the time he was 20, added that the launch of Wolfram Alpha later this month would be just the beginning of the project.

"It will understand what you are talking about," he said.

That sounds really cool just as long as it doesn't cause trouble like the HAL 9000.

Hat tip: Ace


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Comments (6)

I'm intrigued by this conce... (Below threshold)
Jake:

I'm intrigued by this concept and I really hope this isn't another one of the "turning the Web into natural language awesomeness" that has been talked about for a decade now.

One big nit I'd have about this article is the claim that this curated system is somehow inherently better than the fundamentally flawed Wikipedia because of the open nature. A) Wikipedia has proven itself to be able to stand up to just about any other source, and B) Wikipedia also uses curators, although somewhat differently.

Interesting concept though. Let's cross our fingers it works!

It'll be interesting to see... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

It'll be interesting to see how this works out. Technology's always changing - and Google now is a far cry from AltaVista back in the day. Will we change from 'Google it' to "wolf it'?

"...educated at Eton and... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

"...educated at Eton and had completed his PhD in particle physics by the time he was 20..."

Nerd!

I am somewhat skeptical. I ... (Below threshold)
Brett:

I am somewhat skeptical. I read Wolframs book A New Kind Of Science, all thousand or so pages of it, and I think I understood what he was doing. But the idea that it represented anything beyond a superficially interesting function of logic is an amazing leap.

It looked a lot more like someone who had spent far too much time in front of a keyboard and wanted to make it mean something far beyond what it really was.

Dr Wolfram, an awa... (Below threshold)
res:
Dr Wolfram, an award-winning physicist who is based in America, added that the information is "curated", meaning it is assessed first by experts. This means that the weaknesses of sites such as Wikipedia, where doubts are cast on the information because anyone can contribute, are taken out.

And this takes out "doubts about the information" exactly how? See Global Warming for what I mean...

res

I agree with Jake, I think.... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

I agree with Jake, I think. The curated system proposed is an extra step that nobody needs. The key is for OLD ducuments and newspapers to be systematically crawled through Googles' data farm with the addition of ephemerides and such proprietary programs as TurboSky (royalty fee?). Google seems to be aleady pretty decent with statistical analysis. In short, it's the availabilty of source material that leaves much to be desired so far.

Basically "lexis-nexis" back to circa 1600, when History was systematized (or rewritten).

Anything further back than that WILL need a curator-historian-scientist.




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