Watson, Jeopardy and an End to Search Engines As We Know Them?

Watson, Jeopardy and an End to Search Engines As We Know Them?

This week on Jeopardy (an American Quiz show) man takes on machine. IBM’s super computer “Watson” will take on two previous long-term winners (winnings in the multiple millions of dollars) and is expected to win. There are of course echoes of the “Deep Blue” saga where for a long-time human beings played chess better than a computer, though no more as in the end we couldn’t keep up with the raw processing power of the hardware. But what does this mean for search engines and more importantly Internet marketing?

Jeopardy is an interesting challenge for a computer, unlike most quiz shows where the format is Question followed by Answer, on this show the answer comes first and the player must decipher the question. What this means in practice is that Watson must be able to place information in context to deliver an answer. The machine cannot just have a million encyclopaedias uploaded and then scan them for an approximate fit to the answer; it must take the answer and evolve the question.

Current search technology is based on the ability to answer a question, and often not very well because there’s no real contextual understanding in search engines. So they use a few tricks based on credible referrals, viewer statistics etc. to try and deliver that context. It doesn’t work very well though and often the highest ranked search items aren’t necessarily best for the question posed of the search engine.

Watson may be a ridiculously expensive supercomputer today, but as we all know over time the cost and power required to deliver the same performance will drop – rapidly. That means in the long run the same kind of information understanding, can and will be developed for use in Internet search.

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This is great news for content providers, if you have something useful to say and you’ve developed top quality content that actually answers questions and provides useful information in the long run you’re going to win the search war against the SEO keyword spammers. Because once your information can be interpreted for what it is, there’s no place to hide.

Affiliate marketers who rely on stuffing the net with “thin” content are in trouble a quick scan will reveal their content to be low value and they’ll begin to spiral to the ends of the world in search terms.

So in the race of man vs. machine let’s hope that Watson emerges victorious and that the technology swiftly becomes affordable for adoption by the search engines.