Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson
sbisson

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Computers are dumb.

There's one thing to remember, no matter how smart computers appear, they're even dumber than Homer Simpson. Yes, even the mighty Googleplex, with its many thousands of processors and high-bandwidth connections.

Take the Google Maps "Brothel" story that's been going around for the last week. It's an amusing little game that quickly turned into a silly season news story, where searching around a chosen location for the word "brothel" labels various unusual and unlikely places as bordellos - including The National Film Theatre, Amnesty International and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

The reason why is simple - at some point in the past the word "brothel" has appeared on their web sites, in a piece of journalism, or a film review. What Google is doing in its map-driven local search is just providing a simple search of its existing index, without the context we're familiar with from a normal Google search. The only difference between a Google Local search and a search on the main Google site is that Google applies a an additional geographic boundary condition to its search algorithm.

So no need to panic - this is not, as a quote in a recent article on Yahoo! News implies - a deliberate attack or an error in the Google databases. It's just a computer doing exactly what you tell it to do, and surprisingly well at that...

Of course, as I have geographic information in my blog headers, and I have used the word "brothel" several times in this entry, I'll need to start putting out the red lights again...
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