Googling Before Google: A Brief History of Search

chad wellmon

To search is to google––to use Google’s search engine to find something on the Web. The search for meaning, love, purpose, or God––search as an existential feature of being human––has, in little more than a decade, been reduced to a secondary meaning.

[I delivered various versions of this talk this past fall and spring at Boston University, Ohio State University, and McGill University. It’s just a talk and hasn’t been published. So it’s rough. Comments welcomed and needed. I’m writing a book on the history of search.]

From its now almost apocryphal beginnings at Stanford in 1998, Google was described by its co-founders Larry Page and Sergy Brin as a technology designed to “organize the world’s information.” In Google’s first press release on June, 7 1999, Brin said that a “perfect search engine will process and understand all the information in the world.” In its first decade, Google focused on…

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The NDIS, markets and self-regulation: If we build it will they come?

excellent commentary on the problems with public markets – which by default fails in favour of suppliers at the expense of consumers

helen dickinson

I recently was invited to speak at an event hosted by the Victorian Council of Social Services on the topic of markets and human services.  I spoke about the need for more active market management in disability services and was asked to write up the talk for Power to Persuade’s current series on Social Service Futures.   The link to the piece can be found here.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been described as a once-in-a-generation reform that will benefit all Australians. The A$22 billion scheme is in the process of being progressively rolled out across most of the country.  
For many, the NDIS is an incredibly welcome scheme. For too long, Australian disability services have been underfunded, inflexible and built around the needs of the system rather than those of the individual. An OECD study found that Australians ranked lowest in terms of quality of…

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The new dualism of information and data science

The Occasional Informationist

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear Luciano Floridi give a Turing Lecture at the British Library Conference Centre, on ‘Ethics in the Age of Information’. The Alan Turing Institute is the UK’s national institute for data science, and locates itself at the intersection of computer science, mathematics, statistics and systems engineering. Floridi is well known as Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute, and originator of the increasingly influential Philosophy of Information programme.
floridi 1

The talk was a typical Floridian fluent and engaging discourse, ranging over a wide area of technical and philosophical topics, and seamlessly merging a broad account of developing digital technology with long-standing ethical issues and dilemmas. This was focused around around the idea that we are now all ‘onlife’: neither online nor offline (a very 1990s binary distinction), but always at the same time both in the real world and also…

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Startups Mining New Data Sources for Investors

What's The Big Data?

CBInsights_Alternative-DataCB Insights:

The proliferation of mobile devices, low-cost sensors, and technologies like AI-assisted image-processing have led to an explosion of new and potential data sources. Hedge funds and other investors see value in these non-traditional datasets to mine predictive insights, which might put them ahead of the rest of the pack.

  • Satellite Data – These are companies that utilize image data from orbiting satellites to do things like measure the number of cars in Walmart parking lots or farm health based on the color of crops.
    Select Companies: Orbital Insight, Rezatec, Windward
  • Web/App/Social Media Data – These are companies which mine social media or use data firehoses from the web/mobile to understand what’s happening in the world or how people are interacting with their devices.
    Select Companies: Dataminr, App Annie, 7ParkData
  • Weather Data – These are companies which are developing weather models and utilizing more…

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I’ll stop calling algorithms racist when you stop anthropomorphizing AI


I was involved in an interesting discussion the other day with other data scientists on the mistake people make when they describe a “racist algorithm”. Their point, which I largely agreed with, is that algorithms are simply mirroring back to us what we’ve fed them as training data, and in that sense they are no more racist than any other mirror. And yes, it’s a complicated mirror, but it’s still just a mirror.

This issue came up specifically because there was a recent story about how, if you google image search “professional hairstyles for work,” you’ll get this:

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 9.24.56 AM

but if you google image search “unprofessional hairstyles for work” you’ll instead get this:

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 9.26.12 AM.png

This is problematic, but it’s also clearly not the intention of the Google engineering team, or the google image search algorithm, to be racist. It is instead a reflection of what we as a community have presented to that…

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Counter-Stories Against Robot Dystopia

If robots become an extension of industrialism, god help us… Except there is no God.

aNtiDoTe Zine

Transcribed from the 21 November 2015 episode of This is Hell! Radio (Chicago) and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the whole interview:

“The question is, looking at this new robotic economy: what do robots buy? And the answer to that question is, obviously: not much.”

Chuck Mertz: Technology will be the solution to all our problems, and it’s inevitable: our future is one that will be a perfect world where robots do all our work—freeing all of us to be, well, servants to robots. Here to tell us why technology may not have the great fix for all of humanity’s challenges, social critic Curtis White, author of We Robots: Staying Human in the Age of Big Data.

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Source: About the book


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