Natural Language Comes Naturally To Google


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Though it’s an artificial construct of thousands of machines, Google’s Peter Norvig suggested natural language has a place in the search engine; just not the place most people think.

Much has been made of the potential of asking a search engine a natural question and getting a natural answer. The concept has been tried before (Ask Jeeves) and is being tried again with a variety of technology firms.

Google’s take on natural language isn’t quite the same as everyone else’s, despite the lengths they went to in fighting Microsoft for the services of Kai-Fu Lee, a renowned natural language expert.

This came to light in an interview Peter Norvig conducted with Technology Review. The question of what Google is doing with natural language drew this response from Norvig:

We think what’s important about natural language is the mapping of words onto the concepts that users are looking for. But we don’t think it’s a big advance to be able to type something as a question as opposed to keywords. Typing “What is the capital of France?” won’t get you better results than typing “capital of France.” But understanding how words go together is important.

We have reported in the past that people tend to search for a couple of words, rather than using longer queries. Google’s responsiveness to this practice probably started a cycle of reinforcing that behavior with searchers, who became used to getting a lot of relevant results with a couple of terms.

Natural Language Comes Naturally To Google
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