Monday, March 30, 2009

Wolfram Alpha – Beyond Google

I’ll forgive you if you don’t know who Stephen Wolfram is. To be honest, unless you’re a certain type of geek, you will not have come across his name. Believe me, this is unfortunate because Stephen Wolfram is building something special. Something very special indeed. What Stephen’s building isn’t just special, it’s perhaps one of the most impressive and significant concepts in the last centaury, and that’s a big statement.

I’m going to make a very small presumption; I will assume you are familiar with Google. Google is the preferred search engine for almost everyone’s daily interweb questions. Google is limited though. Google is a search engine, and it will search for information as per your specified parameters. Wolfram Alpha is a different animal altogether. Stephen Wolfram has no interest in killing Google or building something to compete with them (not directly anyway). Wolfram Alpha will be an "answer engine" rather than a search engine.

I couldn’t be more excited about this. I have spoken so many times about Web3.0 and the Semantic Web. I thoroughly believe the future of the net will be governed by intelligent systems that are able to interpret data, and driven by a new need for the people using it. The total quantity of unique data on the net is growing, fast! Simply searching through it would take a very long time.

That’s where Wolfram Alpha comes in. Basically Stephen and his team have built what they calls a "computational knowledge engine" for the internet. This means that you can ask it factual questions and it computes answers for you. It won’t just scan through the net and spit out a list of sites that contain your search term. It will actually computes answers for you. It will understand and then compute answers to questions.

Think about it. That’s pretty huge. And I don’t just mean ‘how many litres in a pint’, I mean ‘what were the political motivations behind the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq’. Google can’t do that!


Anonymous said...

Readers interested in some thoughts on Wolfram Alpha will might find my blog on the subject interesting. It's at


--David (the blog's author...)

Nick McGivney said...

TERMINATOR: In three years Cyberdyne will become the largest supplier of military computer systems. All stealth bombers are upgraded with Cyberdyne computers, becoming fully unmanned. Afterward, they fly with a perfect operational record.

(getting behind John) Uh huh, great. Then those fat fucks in Washington figure, what the hell, let a computer run the whole show, right?

TERMINATOR: Basically.
(Starting the engine, backing out)
The Skynet funding bill is passed. The system goes on-line August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn, at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. eastern time, August 29.
In a panic, they try to pull the plug...

I'm just saying is all. :-0

Christian Hughes said...


Have you seen the SkyNet Research viral campaign for Terminator Salvation?

a post I wrote and never posted

Terminator Salvation
In the run up to this summers release of the new Terminator movie there is a viral campaign rolling out. Based on an idea that it is all real, users can visit and sign up to the website. The site is based on the company that is the "creator" and precursor to the Skynet system that attempts to destroy humanity. There was an EDM today that highlighted an error on the site: some sort of audio problem, and a link to the site with specific instructions to ignore it and not visit it. This site is a blog charting the Skynet company and the 'bad' things happening there.

It's early days yet but I would imagine that there is a lot still to come, and with the production involved it should be exciting.

Movie Trailer: