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Hey Google, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

Submitted by on May 18, 2010 – 11:55 am4 Comments

My weekly tutoring has turned into a fascinating sociology lesson. In the past few weeks, I’ve learned my blackberry is “ancient” (true), that most teachers communicate with students and parents via email and post assignments online (not surprising), and that Justin Bieber is the cutest guy of all time (weird).

Last night, one of my 5th grade kids was writing a paper on fossil fuels and needed to figure out how much time we had before they run out.  I suggested she Google it. She looked up at my expectantly.

I prompted: “How long will fossil…” Google did the rest, completing the sentence with “fuels last”.

The SERP now in front of her, she clicked on the third link – a research paper – and clicked immediately back.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I couldn’t find the answer,” she shrugged.

And there you have it. That’s how long it takes for someone in 5th grade to research a question: 0.5 seconds. She did this with 3 other links until landing on an answers site, where the user-generate answers ranged from “forever” to “10 years” to “500 years”.  Those weren’t good either. Frustrated, she tried another query. And another.

This is the new “searching” – it doesn’t involve an actual “search,” but a simple query that demands a direct, complete, accurate answer.

This begs the question – how long until we have easily accessible (and fully accurate) answers to all our questions, no matter how “long tail” they may be? When will Google – or someone else – create a technology that will answer any question immediately?

And how will health seekers – who never seem to have one solid answer but a slew of opinions, test results, appointments – benefit from more precise and accurate answers?

Thank you to Rjacklin for use of the photo above!

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