Google has long been acknowledged as the king among online search engines (does anyone still Ask Jeeves?). As www.google.com became the default “home” page on many of our browsers, it replaced search platforms like JSTOR and LexisNexis, which are now relegated to libraries and educational institutions. It also changed the way we ask questions, consume information, and navigate our own internal mental landscapes.
The power that this gives Google (and Alphabet, its parent company) is immense. There is ongoing debate over whether such a monopoly on access to information is healthy, sustainable, or conducive to democracy. As scholars and pundits debate, the rest of us continue turning to Google for answers to queries ranging from “how to fix a water heater” to “what is the meaning of life?”. Now, a new initiative from the company’s experts in artificial intelligence (AI) is once again shifting the framework of access to information online.