So, last week I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the TTI/Vanguard conference "re:Learning" in Washington, DC. Sure, I got to give my talk on virtual worlds and take questions from people like John Perry Barlow and Alan Kay (search Twitter for #ttiv for relevant Tweets) but we also got to see a demo from the forthcoming "Wolfram/Alpha Computational Search Engine" from Stephen Wolfram.
This article is a nice write-up and actually has a couple links to other write-ups but in the interest of redundancy, I'll add my own. This is not a Google killer. They are different. Ask Google "coastline of England"and it'll return web pages that talk about the coastline of England. Ask W/A (sorry, just not going to type out 'Wolfram/Alpha' every time) that question and it will actually try to compute the distance of that coastline. Easy right? Its the difference between search and computation.
The demos are fairly amazing in terms of the reults returned in terms of data display but there are some issues. The biggest one is that it currently runs on "Curated Data" - that is data sets that have been scrubbed specifically for the system. As I understand it, this process is partially automated and partially human-powered - that can present scaling issues. That doesn't bother me so much though because I really see this as an enterprise tool.
So I work in Defense Acquisition - as you can imagine - our projects can generate HUGE amounts of data. Having access to a computational engine that would be able to troll that data and deliver answers not just search results could be ridiculously powerful. The bigger your data sets, the more powerful W/A becomes.
My question(s) then is - what impact(s) do you see this having on or field?
We all know how Google has impacted our learners (its their main tool for learning), what kind of impact will W/A have?
Will wee need to teach different skills for dealing with an engine that computes versus searches?
What kind of uses will be able to put this capability to inside our enterprise in support of our users?