The Web: Just a Screaming Teenager ...

It's very hard to put the web in any real context, as there's just so little to go on right now. It's not exactly been around long. I meet people every day who think the web is just amazing, wonderful, and lots more superlatives all the time, who think it's the best thing since sliced bread and no arugments please. But these very same people will laugh and smirk if you were to start to mention older technology - perhaps bring in an old SEGA console or Commodore and then see their reaction - yes they were fine then, but please, get a life, things have moved on ...

Well yes, but how far, and what's next?

What triggered this impulse post was a quick search to see if I could get from Exeter to Athens by plane. There's a conference there I might like to attend. I thought I'd ask one of the very best travel websites out there what it thought, and I got a pretty surprising result - the choice top of their list would have taken me almost 10 hours, involved 4 changes (I think - it's not very clear) and cost me almost £1,500. Hmm - maybe I should rethink.

Now I know there are lots of reasons why I got such bad results, and I'm not about to start a technical argument about pros and cons of this method or another. What I find really interesting is the fact that it's so bizzarely wrong, hugely wrong, wrong beyond all sense. It's like some of those tales of sat nav systems that send you to another country and back just to go down the road.

So what's my point? I think it's two fold - firstly the web is at the moment entering it's screaming teenager phase (or maybe that's just the people who are most engaged with it right now!). It's pretty cool, even accomplished, got some pretty good ideas about things too, but about as much self control and respect for other opinions as a rabid hamster. Secondly - and more importantly - it doesn't know how wrong it is. It's wonderful in it's range, it's scale, and hugely impressive that it can capture so much so quickly, but it's thick as pig ... well, you know the stuff.

At the end of the day it's all about encoding human intelligence, and I think we need to be more aware as we build this stuff that maybe our ability to encode what we know only goes so far. Perhaps we should be including a result which says "I don't know", because offering me the chance to spend 10 hours travelling and spend £1,500 just to get to Athens is non-sensical.

P.S. I take it all back, the web is great. 10 minutes more work searching manually (and using my own brain for once) and I can do the trip for £400 and be in Athens for lunch

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