Best Of The Web
“IF YOU HAD visited the Cambridge University Library in the late 1990s, you might have observed a skinny young man, his face illuminated by the glow of a laptop screen, camping out in the stacks. William Tunstall-Pedoe had wrapped up his studies in computer science several years earlier, but he still relished the musty aroma of old paper, the feeling of books pressing in from every side. The library received a copy of nearly everything published in the United Kingdom, and the sheer volume of information—5 million books and 1.2 million periodicals—inspired him.
IT WAS AROUND this time, of course, that another vast repository of knowledge—the internet—was taking shape. Google, with its famous mission statement “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” was proudly stepping into its role as librarian to the planet. But as much as Tunstall-Pedoe adored lingering in the stacks, he felt that computers shouldn’t require people to laboriously track down information the way that libraries did. Yes, there was great pleasure to be had in browsing through search results, stumbling upon new sources, and discovering adjacent facts. But what most users really wanted was answers, not the thrill of a hunt.
As tools for achieving this end, search engines were almost as cumbersome as their book-stuffed predecessors. First, you had to think of just the right keywords. From the long list of links that Google or Yahoo produced, you had to guess which one was best. Then you had to click on it, go to a web page, and hope that it contained the information you sought. Tunstall-Pedoe thought the technology should work more like the ship’s computer on Star Trek: Ask a question in everyday language, get an “instant, perfect answer.” Search engines as helpful librarians, he believed, must eventually yield to AIs as omniscient oracles.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"We don’t know how many people have died since Cyclone Idai made landfall last Thursday on the coast of Mozambique... The United Nations estimated that more than 2.6 million people are in need of immediate assistance."
"Some of your favorite presidents have tried to pack the Supreme Court. So why does it sound like such an extreme tactic? And how did some of the top Democrats running for president come to embrace it?
"I decided to move from my home in cosmopolitan Tel Aviv to the settlement of Tekoa in the West Bank for a summer. I wanted to make a film about my experiences as I got to know the settlers I’d formed so many conclusions about."
"20 years ago, if you saw something on TV that offended you and you wanted to let someone know, you would’ve had to get a pen and paper and write, “Dear BBC, I’m bothered.” But you didn’t do it because it was too much trouble."
"America’s now trendy socialists mistake accretion for creation when it comes to wealth. This error of convenience serves as self-justification for the left’s policies, by simply assuming wealth will inevitably result...
"Anxious, I asked the Google gods for advice. I expected I’d find something from a lifestyle blogger, or a life coach, or a Reddit thread — the corners of the web that have always been there for me during pivotal life moments..."
"The air is getting more dangerous to breathe all over the world — and a suite of companies are hoping to capitalize with a new fashion item."
"Was the British Empire boring? As Jeffrey Auerbach notes in his irreverent new book, it’s an unexpected question, largely because imperial culture was so conspicuously saturated with a sense of adventure."
"Let’s face it: Few of us marry and then begin planning for divorce or widowhood. But based on the statistics, that is precisely what we should do. I know this viscerally because I recently lost my husband."
"The foodie—as a word, a concept, a person—began life in the early 1980s. New York writer Gael Greene first used the term in a restaurant review, but it was Ann Barr and Paul Levy of England’s Harper’s and Queen who popularized it."
"As Beresheet nears the moon, where it will spend eternity as a 160 kg tin can, experts warn of a growing pile of man-made debris on the lunar surface and more junk in orbit."
" Ilhan Omar in particular has garnered attention for tweets widely viewed by the Jewish community as trafficking in anti-Semitic tropes. The result has been the most media coverage of anti-Semitism in a decade..."