What Google Can Learn From The Horse

by Barry Welford January 12th, 2010 

Google Search Does A Half-baked Job

As we noted in a previous post, Google Search deals entirely with logic.

Computer algorithms handle the information content of websites as expressed in bits of information.  However human brains handle much more than just logical information.  Some have pictured this by suggesting we all really have 3 brains.  Of course we have the logical brain, but in addition we have two other brains.  The heart brain handles emotional reactions we may have to events and perceptions.  The gut brain almost 'without thinking' causes us to react instinctively to circumstances around us.

Some may have a problem with the concepts in this article.  However if you suspend your disbelief, you will find practical suggestions for Google at the end of this.

Humans get conditioned to listen mostly to their logical brains

Our conditioning to emphasize what our logical brain is handling starts from an early age. At school we are encouraged to learn about a host of subjects often by reading and studying books.  No wonder the logical brain seems so important to our standing in society and to our relationships with others.

The process continues in our every day lives as we communicate with others via our telephones, our text messages or even by twittering.  It's all information and it is all handled by the logical brain.

The emphasis on the logical brain is now even stronger as we use search engines such as Google.  The object of our search must be set down in keywords that represents information that is handled by our logical brains.  Almost immediately, the answers are returned to us using the same type of information laid out in the best format for our logical brains to handle.

So what is wrong with this picture?  We are apparently ignoring what those other brains might reveal to us.  What might our heart brain suggest about a given topic?  Is there something our gut brain might have presented to us if we had been opening our minds to such thoughts.  Some suggest we may be missing a lot by this single-minded focus on logic.

fire in the crucible

Creativity comes from the non-logical parts of the brain

This focus on the logical brain may be shutting off important creative ideas and insights, some of them perhaps not at all logical, that the two other brains might have provided.  That is a view expressed for example by John Briggs in his book "Fire in the Crucible: The Alchemy of Creative Genius"

John Briggs gathers numerous studies showing how artists and inventors keep their thoughts pulsating in the vocal field of nuance.  To accomplish this feat against cultural conditioning, they tend to be outsiders who have trouble fitting into polite society.  Many creative geniuses, like Albert Einstein, do not do well in school and do not speak until they are older, thus increasing their awareness of unspoken feelings and situations.  Through their inability, or refusal, to fully submit to a system based on outside authority, secondhand thought and suppressed emotion, creative people enhance their ability to activate the entire brain, including all its deeper, multisensory connections and awareness centers throughout the body.

If we only had ways of communicating with other humans without having to transform all thought waves into expressions that can be handled by the logical brain, then perhaps we would have much richer 'communications'.  Perhaps that is best illustrated by much work that is going on in another field.

Way of the Horse

way of the horse

"Way of the Horse" is the title of a book by Linda Kohanov. She and many others around the world are working in a way that encourages two-way communication between humans and horses.

Horses are prey animals.  In the wild, they live with the constant fear that their young or the weak of the herd may be attacked and killed by predators.

There are many features that distinguish between predators and prey animals.  Predators like cats and dogs have forward facing eyes to help them focus on their prey.  Once they have caught their prey, they will then spend much of the day sleeping or resting in one place.  Prey animals like horses must spend most of the day eating and have eyes on both sides of their heads for maximum visibility.  Their ears are constantly on the move to detect the slightest sound that may signal danger.  They have much keener senses of smell than dogs or cats.  They look around for the slightest hint that something unpleasant will be happening soon.

It would appear that they have greater sensitivity in all parts of the brain.  Perhaps there is a better balance between the logic brain, the heart brain and gut brain.  Linda Kohanov encourages us to explore that:

This involves stepping off our high horses, removing the armor, and letting these powerful yet sensitive beings lead us to greater physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual balance.

She points out the danger in allowing our logical brain to rule:

An over emphasis on logic, language, will, and focus has actually been shown to decrease creativity and awareness.  Sensations and feelings are constantly pouring into our bodies in public up to the surface of our minds, yet few of these nuances make it through the powerfully discerning frontal cortex of the human brain.  When we form a thought and narrow the focus of that thought enough to fit into spoken or written language, we are abstracting from a much richer field of information.  As we pass the simplified snapshots of reality onto other people, they eventually solidify into a cultural perspective that literally shapes the way we perceive the world.  As a result, there is lots of information that never comes to our attention.  We've reached the point where the emotions and memories we are most conscious of are primarily set in motion by thoughts and words.

Developing a relationship with a horse involves mutual respect and trust.  That may take some time but is an invaluable way of becoming aware of what all three brains can do. It also may be helpful in determining how best to balance the inputs that can come from these three brains.  What you learn may also be instructive for an entity that only has one logical brain – think Google.

Where Does Google's Single Brain Fall Down

If you are having a problem with the notion that Google has a functional weakness, then consider three areas where Google search results often turn out to be unsatisfactory to the human searchers.

  1. The first and most obvious weak area for searches is that for images.  Converting your image request into keywords so that it can be handled by a logical brain is extremely difficult.  The results that are delivered are a testimony to that.
  2. Another area where Google provides surprisingly poor results is that of local search.  In many cases, the human searcher knows at a glance whether the location that is being suggested makes sense and is the most appropriate choice.
  3. The final example is bigger than either of the two previous ones and you may  just never have thought about it.  Some keyword searches will tend to produce many spammy entries that are obvious in the blink of an eye to the human searcher.  However Google's logical brain has a difficulty in judging what may be authentic and what may be spurious.

A Google defender might suggest that given enough time the logical algorithms based on keywords will be improved to the point where results will always be acceptable.  However the human searcher using other inputs from the other brains can already define quickly what are acceptable results and which are failures.

What should Google Do

Google search does work well for the majority of searches that can be handled by logical analysis applied to keywords.  For the others, Google would be well advised to acknowledge that a logical process will always produce a weak result.  This acceptance would be an important step in determining different ways to handle these tough trouble spots.

With this view, Google could decide to develop a quality score for the searches it does.  This quality would be confirmed by the webpage analytics data they collect on how searchers navigate the SERPs (search engine report pages) they produce. If very few searchers click through to the selected URLs in the search engine ranking, then that is the sign that something is not working as it should.

In cases where the logical search always proves to be weak, they could try to develop scalable methods by which human inputs can help to correct and select from the draft results produced by the logical approach.  How best to do this is a major challenge, which can only be tackled once Google acknowledges that the logical approach is sometimes deficient and may never be capable of delivering satisfactory results. The only solution will come when there is an appropriate balance of the inputs that can be derived from the several brains that sentient beings have.  As they say, listen up, Google, because this comes straight from the horse's mouth.

Barry Welford

Offering practical, effective ways of strengthening Internet marketing strategy and getting bottom-line success, particularly through local SEO.

BPWrap

You May Also Like

3 Responses to “What Google Can Learn From The Horse”

  1. I suspect that the locgical brain will be supplemented some day. For instance, I ssupect thatimage searches will some day combine words and shaped, and perhaps colors or shades, to better hone in on what we are searching for. It might still be logic based, such as pulling darker images up to the higher rankings if words like "night", "dusk", "dark" or "black" are part of the search. But even that small imrpovement would be a major step forward in the algorithm.

  2. I think the algorithm is just getting started. It is still relatively young and I think we are going to see some really drastic changes over the next ten years to who information is displayed for users.

  3. Mihail says:

    As Google announces the algorithm is changing, evolving and improving constantly for user's sake. I would not say that it's getting just started. It's hard to predict the result. I might be wrong.