A ranting blog, and I start with news… probably not a good idea, but this one is such a biggy that I had to do it anyway:
Tonight at 12am UTC, Wolfram Alpha will be connected to the internet.
Now whats the big deal? Thousands of websites are put online every day, so what? Now Wolfram Alpha might become the third source of reference to a lot of you. Google, Wikipedia, Wolfram Alpha. But then again, it might be one of the greatest internet failures of all times. Here is a screencast showing what it is said to be doing.
And since you’re probably reading this when it already has gone online, you can go ahead and test it yourself. Supposedly, it will answer questions like
Whats the GDP of Afghanistan, and what is the average life expectancy of a new born child there?
Now that is pretty cool, right? Yes, it is. The power of a huge database (and I do mean HUGE) is at your fingertips, and 10,000 processors to compute your answer. Deep Thought, anyone?
It will not, however make you ask that question in the first place. And this is where the ranting comes back in. I sure hope it’s as easy to use as that screencast suggests, but even if that is true, and if it had all the data you wanted, will people start putting the right questions in?
What is the AIDS infection rate in Africa? How many people are killed every day in Rwanda?
While politicians and the press totally freak out over swine flu it seems questions are not en vogue. Have questions ever been? At least recently, people have chosen quick answers over tough questions. And more people than you’d imagine will put “Am I sexy?” in. Yer. Sure. You’re so totally hot and sexy that you can now safely go away, stop using precious CPU cycles, and lead your life of ignorance happily ever after, mkay?
For the rest of us, may be its time to ask questions again, and may be this time you have a better chance for answers. I for one thing would love to see our federal government spendings in that database, but hey, that might be a bit too dangerous.
The Binary Grunt.
P.S. And by the way, Wolfram Alpha is totally not a Google rival, just like Wikipedia isnt. It’s not even a search engine! Sorry, folks, you’re totally not getting it. Google is about searching the net, not about finding answers to questions. If you must compare WA to something, compare it to ask.com pwleeeze?
P.P.S. and H1N1 is not more dangerous to you than “regular” flu – but panicking is so much more fun, right?