Xconomy - 12/12/12 by Wade RoushIn the 1983 sci-fi/comedy flick The Man with Two Brains, Steve Martin played Michael Hfuhruhurr, a neurosurgeon who marries one of his patients but then falls in love with the disembodied brain of another woman, Anne. Michael and Anne share an entirely telepathic relationship, until Michael’s gold-digging wife is murdered, giving him the opportunity to transplant Anne’s brain into her body.
Well, you may not have noticed it yet, but the search engine you use every day—by which I mean Google, of course—is also in the middle of a brain transplant. And, just as Dr. Hfuhruhurr did, you’re probably going to like the new version a lot better.
You can think of Google, in its previous incarnation, as a kind of statistics savant. In addition to indexing hundreds of billions of Web pages by keyword, it had grown talented at tricky tasks like recognizing names, parsing phrases, and correcting misspelled words in users’ queries. But this was all mathematical sleight-of-hand, powered mostly by Google’s vast search logs, which give the company a detailed day-to-day picture of the queries people type and the links they click. There was no real understanding underneath; Google’s algorithms didn’t know that “San Francisco” is a city, for instance, while “San Francisco Giants” is a baseball team.
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