The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tom Smith

I'm looking forward to trying Microsoft's new search engine, Bing.  I have been hoping for a long time that somebody would take on Google on its own terms, and it looks like Microsoft is going to give it a credible shot.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who has felt that Google has been trading at least as much on its hat as its cattle.  It's search product is good, but it could be a lot better and the only way things get better is through competition.  A lot of Google's success also seemed to depend uncomfortably on positive feedback effects, effects that promote a network monopoly.  So, to get lots of visits to your site, the most important thing was your Google ranking in certain keyword searches.  But this meant that you had to optimize your site for Google, which might mean making it difficult to use competing products.  Many think not running Google AdSense on your site, for example, is a good way to lower your PageRank.  But since the ranking algorithm is a holy of holy secret, good luck trying to prove that.  Moreover, some critics claim that there is something pernicious in Bing's "decision engine" approach -- Bing puts on top the results it thinks will help you make a decision in certain categories, such as picking a travel destination or finding a doctor.  Google, on the other hand, is supposed to keep all this under the hood, and rank results by a mysterious but highly Scientific process, that's even better for humans being out of the loop.  The Google approach is said to be more objective and less eliteist somehow.  But I don't buy it.  My suscipion is that the Science going on is the science of maximizing ad revenues.  My guess is that has a lot to do with what a "high quality" site is.  By making it explicit that somebody is making their best guess about what you are looking for and pushing some restaurants or airlines to the top, Bing is being more transparent, not less.  Bing can compete on whether it delivers what people are looking for.  That, not cuteness, or not doing evilness, or hipness, or coolness, ought to be the measure of a search service.  If this turns into a competition about service to us, and not brands, we will be the beneficiary.  It is not from the benevolence of high tech companies that we should expect good search results.  Let the war begin.

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Tom Smith


"It is not from the benevolence of high tech companies..."

I love this use of allusion.

Posted by: Michael F. Martin | May 30, 2009 2:04:42 PM

“Bing puts on top the results it thinks will help you make a decision in certain categories."

I am worried about those (Kantian?) CATEGORIES.

Wolfram Alpha which was launched this month also spoke about a framework.

As [Dr Wolfram's company made its] final preparations to release Wolfram Alpha over the next week, [the company] thought it might be helpful to discuss questions like these in [its] blog.
Looking at the Examples by Topic page provides a good FRAMEWORK. You will be able to navigate from the Wolfram Alpha home page to Examples.

Categories fitting a framework.

As I explained on the Wolfram Alpha blog under the article
(also on my blog )

This was on the Wolfram Alpha blog:
Ivo Cerckel May 11, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Yes, in the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the knowing subject no longer directs itself to the known thing, but knowledge is being achieved by structuring reality according to the categories of the human mind which are inborn. The mind/reason imposes its structures/categories upon reality.

That explains why Kantian psychologists like Jean Piaget (1896 1980) consider intelligence to be a form of equilibrium between all the cognitive structurations. Cognitive structurations which are thus imposed in the Kantian way by the mind upon reality.

But, here’s the rub.

Those structures are reversible, for Piaget.

So if the mind decides that its structures do not fit reality, the mind just changes its structures.

What if the different structures which are imposed upon reality do not fit into a coherent whole?

Well, very easy! The definition of coherence is social, says Piaget.

So if society if society decides so, the Principle of Non-Contradiction (PNC), it is impossible to be and not to be at the same time and in the same respect, can be set aside.

In his preface to Kant’s Jaesche Logic (in: Immanuel Kant, Lectures on Logic Cambridge University Press, 1992, (2004 paperback ed.), 521, pp. 523- 524) J. Michael Young explains how Kant made this setting aside of the PNC possible:
[Kant] restricted the use, the validity, of [the PNC] by banishing it from the sphere of metaphysics where dogmatism (sic) sought to make it valid, and restricting it to the merely logical use of reason, as valid only for this use alone. END OF QUOTE

Of course, if the PNC is no longer a metaphysical principle, then it is no longer the first principle of being.
No longer one of the primary or fundamental elements in human knowledge which serve as the bases for all other truths.
No longer the judgement which is naturally first (just as BEING is the first notion of our intelligence, implied in any consequent notion), and which is presupposed by all other judgements.

Thinking can then also be in contradiction to/with reality.

And one can even hold/have contradictory thoughts.
The definition of consistency is a social definition, isn’t it?

Ivo Cerckel

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