THE BLOG

The Future of Search Should Scare Us All

21/12/2015 15:38 GMT | Updated 21/12/2016 10:12 GMT

November saw an article in Time magazine (worth ten minutes of your time to read by the way) entitled Google Searches for its Future and if you don't have time for that here's a very simple summary;

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Amit Singhal, who is Google's senior vice president in charge of all search-related products, has been working on this project for some time and was quoted in the interview saying that this is likely to consume the next few years of his life.

His vision? Think Star Trek and their communicators.

To quote the interview;

"The company's hope is that, together, this transforms the concept of "Googling" from something that happens via a static search bar into a kind of ongoing conversation with an omniscient assistant, ready to step in and fulfill [sic] any request--even ones you haven't thought about yet."

The key to this is of course, understanding you, and this explains why digital companies want to 'own' you. The four biggest and most noteworthy of these are Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft and if you have or use any of their products just spend an hour diving into the Terms and Conditions you have signed up to.

They own you. All of you.

They all reserve the right to track everything you do and offer you suggestions as to what you might like to do based on your past behaviour.

Right now each of the companies are at the voice product stage with Microsoft embedding Cortana into mobile phones, Apple using Siri, Facebook having 'M' in Messenger and Google is pursuing this with its own 'OK Google' voice product which featured in TV adverts in July 2015. Even Amazon is getting in on the act with a voice product named 'Echo' that sits in your home waiting for voice commands.

So what's the next move?

Well, the predictive arm of Google's assistant, 'Google Now', is planning to be an even more powerful evolution of traditional search. Launched in 2012, 'Google Now' aims to find information for users before they even think of typing it into the search box.

This is how it is described;

"Initially Now offered obvious features that were readily accessible via apps, like weather forecasts and sports scores. But the information available is getting increasingly sophisticated, making use of Google's different services (and its tracking capabilities).

The program will pick up on your daily commute schedule and use real-time traffic data to recommend when you should leave home to make it to work on time. It will comb through your emails to produce info cards showing your upcoming flight times, purchased movie tickets or incoming package shipments. Google Now can even remember where you parked your car."

The next step is 'Now on Tap' which allows Google to scan whatever is on a user's smartphone screen and then pull up relevant information or links to relevant apps.

Google wants to implement 'Now' cards that can tell you which of the restaurants near you have the shortest waiting time, create holiday itineraries for an upcoming long weekend or send you reminders to take your prescription medicine.

And so we come to the most disturbing bit. This is where they are all going, although Google is the first one to articulate it;

Google has to convince users they should trade their personal data for convenience. 'Now' is an opt-in service, and it works best when you essentially hand the digital keys of your life over to Google and trust the company to drive.

Google's plan is clear. They want to make "ambient computing" a reality. Essentially computing that is seamlessly present wherever you are, so easily accessible that you barely even realize that you're interacting with a computer. And they want this to be available Worldwide. But to do this they want access to everything you do digitally.

Google's Gary Illyes even went as far as to say that said that he would love to see Google Now replace traditional e-commerce transactions. Seriously? This is heavy stuff as it requires us all to embed Google so far into our lives that it knows everything about us, all of the time.

Whether you want this or not, it is a reality and it is coming. The question is, do you want this? Will you let Google run your life for you?

A longer version of this article was first published here