Google's Udi Manber, vice president of engineering of Google Search, talked about the future of search at a conference this week:
"Ideally, we would understand your question, we would understand all knowledge, and match the two," Manber said.
That's not possible today, though, so Google takes a shortcut: Google tries to analyze and summarize all content, extend a user's query into a summary version, and then match the two.
That sounds like a pretty long shortcut, but clearly Google has set its standards and goals very high. "We strive to answer every question, in every language, in a personalized fashion, in less than 100 milliseconds, for free," Manber said.
In Manber's view, humans are a puzzle only beginning to be unlocked. "The 20th century was about conquering nature. The 21st will be about understanding people," he said, and computing is following suit. "The largest computing clusters in operation today are doing search, e-mail, social networking."