My latest Guardian column is "Google admits that Plato's cave doesn't exist," a discussion of how Google has changed the way it talks about its search-results, shifting from the stance that rankings are a form of pure math to the stance that rankings are a form of editorial judgment.
Google has, to date, always refused to frame itself in those terms. The pagerank algorithm isn't like an editor arguing aesthetics around a boardroom table as the issue is put to bed. The pagerank algorithm is a window on the wall of Plato's cave, whence the objective, empirical world of Relevance may be seen and retrieved.
That argument is a convenient one when the most contentious elements of your rankings are from people who want higher ranking. "We have done the maths, and your page is empirically less relevant than the pages above it. Your quarrel is with the cold, hard reality of numbers, not with our judgement."
The problem with that argument is that maths is inherently more regulatable than speech. If the numbers say that item X must be ranked over item Y, a regulator may decide that a social problem can be solved by "hard-coding" page Y to have a higher ranking than X, regardless of its relevance. This isn't censorship – it's more like progressive taxation.
Google admits that Plato's cave doesn't exist
On January 17, 2017 — yes, 2017 — the USPTO granted Patent 9,547,842 to IBM: “Out-of-office electronic mail messaging system.”
Spiral Toys — a division of Mready, a Romanian electronics company that lost more than 99% of its market-cap in 2015 — makes a line of toys called “Cloudpets,” that use an app to allow parents and children to exchange voice-messages with one another. They exposed a database of millions of these messages, along with […]
NHK’s children’s show Pythagora Switch features fiendishly clever, astoundingly amusing interstitial segments with beautiful little Rube Goldberg machines, possessed of a Miyazakiesque whimsy and a Mujiesque minimalism. These are wonderful — and at 30 seconds each, you can watch a whole ton of ’em.
Wireless headphones aren’t a mind-bending thing anymore now that Apple made them the standard thing-to-be-outraged-over-in-the-new-iPhone fare, thereby killing the cool factor. But let’s be reasonable here. Wires really are a pain when you’re running, trying to get off the bus, or even just standing up from your desk. Wireless headphones make sense, they just don’t […]
Python is such a commonly used general-purpose programming language and features such (comparatively) simple syntax, that most veteran programmers consider it an excellent foundation for aspiring programmers. The Python 3 Bootcamp Bundle packs over 30 hours of training into nine courses to build that foundation for you.If you’ve never had any introduction to code at […]