Douwe Osinga's Blog: Bizarro Google

Monday, January 26, 2004

Bizarro Google

In the Seinfeld episode ‘Bizarror Jerry’, the crew meets a group of people exactly the opposite of Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George. Quite often I need something similar in a search engine. A Bizarro Google.

It is not that I need a search engine to give me the least relevant pages for a keyword. Many search engines seemed to have tried that and were swept away. But if you type in the name of theory or a scientist, usually the top hits are references to documents explaining this theory or talking about what this scientist said. Quite often this is of course what you’re looking for, but sometimes it is also interesting to find pages that oppose the theory or scientist.

Richard Osinga wrote a few month ago about Anna Wierzbicka, a scientist who came up with the theory that our brains processes knowledge in atomic pieces of information and that therefore every word can be expressed in 61 elementary primitives. It is an interesting concept, though I don’t think it stands up against scrutiny. If you type in her name, you get a long list of pages about her and her theories, but it is much harder to find pages against the theory, though there are probably plenty, this being the Internet. But if I find a new theory (and that happens a lot on the Internet), it would be rather practical to get a list of pro- and contra pages.

Could Google do this? Using Google to get these pages is hard. Adding keywords like ‘against’ or similar doesn’t really work. But Google could probably extract enough meaning from a page to conclude whether it was pro or against a theory. It could be another step in the direction of Google as a common sense engine.