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Chicken or egg?

March 9, 2016

At the Librarian event in Washington yesterday one of my three goto points at the end of the presentation was that they needed to go beyond information retrieval and to think about exaptive enablement of knowledge discovery. This links with a theme I have picked up with a few clients of late. The more you focus on information based processes the more, sooner or later, you can be replaced by an algorithm. Professional services firms have tended to focus on efficiency by standardised processes (that includes lawyers and accountants) but anything robotic in nature can be robotised. So to survive in a world where a AI system can beat a human at GO (I got my prediction that would never happen badly wrong) you have to find ways to do things that only humans can do, albeit with technology augmentation.

For librarians information retrieval is probably a lost cause in the short, let alone the long term. One might qualify that a little in that the Google’s of this world are brilliant at information retrieval in the context of selling you something. DuckDuckGo and others challenge that but there is something about judgement in what to pay attention to and what not which matters. I still use Twitter for a lot of searches as it brings humans with greater contextual understanding to address the problem. They may use the likes of Google, but they know better what to look for. We also have the wider issue of knowledge that is not simply text based in nature. I’ll be speaking about that later in the the week at SXSW in Austin TX.

Some of the next generation work I am doing on SenseMaker® at the moment is all about using higher levels of abstraction in search so that you discover what you didn’t know you needed to discover. Another way of defining serendipity or exaptive search. The issue here is what comes first – the desire to find something or the knowledge of what needs to be found?

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