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And the Answer is…

August 1, 2018

Our digital age has bestowed upon us advantages and benefits too numerous to mention. Unfortunately, as is not unusual in such cases, there is a dark side. Well, okay, there are more than a few dark sides. But let’s stay focused.

    Among the benefits available to us are the volume of information that we can access and the speed at which we can access it. With a mere click of the mouse – or as is the case in recent years simply speaking into an internet-connected device – and we can learn virtually anything. Want to know the temperature of Lake Erie? Alexa knows in an instant. If you’re seeking political commentary on Brexit, within seconds you can have access to points of view from the four corners of the earth with perspectives just as broad and varied.

 

    But, as noted earlier, there is a dark side.

    Many search algorithms have the power to pull anything even remotely related to what we seek – so much so that in a fraction of a second we can be buried under an avalanche of information. Unfortunately, most of that information is garbage. Not that the information is invalid, it’s just that so much of it is unrelated to our query.

    During one such recent inquiry of a particular website’s “search” function, our three-word request yielded more than 23,000 answers.

    Really?  23,000 possible answers?  Do any of these techno-geniuses actually think that anyone would spend the time it takes to review their 23,000 possible solutions on the chance that it might yield some useful information? How long would that take? If you could conceivably review 1,000 possibilities an hour, it would take nearly an entire day to look at all that. And then, what if nothing addresses your issue? Do you search again and be presented with another 23,000 suggestions?

    Of course, we haven’t even touched on the general internet searches that can return literally millions of “hits” in less than a second. 

    Then again, there are people who are enthralled with the volume of responses that they can generate to any inquiry on any subject. The numbers are impressive, but that’s all they are, they’re numbers. No one thinks that any even moderately reasonable person would peruse all that crap.

    So what is it there for? Who are they really serving? (Except themselves.) It’s volumes upon volumes of information, just for volume sake. There is no real payoff. Here, allow me to dump all of this on you – not for your benefit, but just so that I can feed my narcisstic ego by boasting huge, unmanageable numbers.

    Maybe a step back is in order. If you’re doing a general search for some general information, okay, what’s the harm? On the other hand, if you have a genuine problem (such as a software issue or a malfunctioning device) how does proffering 23,000 possible answers help?

    There’s a question you probably shouldn’t ask Alexa, or Siri, or Google, or Bing, or Edge… or your cousin Ralph.

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