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The Search Engine of the Future Will Be All-Seeing, All-Knowing 'watcher in the Sky'

A surveillance satellite.

Stefan Weitz, formerly senior director of search at Bing, says some search systems can supply answers before their users can ask a question.


In his new book, "Search: How the Data Explosion Makes Us Smarter," Stefan Weitz, who until recently served as senior director of search at Bing, observes the Internet has become much more massive since Google was conceived in the 1990s.

For example, Weitz notes the Web consisted of about 100,000 sites in 1996 that totaled an estimated 441 million pages. However, he says today's search engines routinely index more than 10 trillion pages, and increasingly will need to identity things proactively rather than reactively.

Weitz says search systems such as Google Now and Microsoft's Cortana can supply answers before their users even ask a question. When a person is leaving the office to go home, Google Now might inform users of subway delays while Cortana could suggest carrying an umbrella due to the weather forecast.

Eventually, search will become omniscient through its ability to access more data. Consumers might like something when their pupils dilate, or companies could record a smartphone's microphone noise levels to determine whether a venue is empty or full. Weitz says such a future requires modifying business models as well as users' ownership and delegation of data-use rights.

A potential solution could be attention banks that provide services in exchange for watching ads.

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