One point made by Prabhakar Raghavan, head of Yahoo! Research, during his talk at the FBK retreat was “People don’t want to search, people want to get their tasks done”. Search engines in fact try to infer the intent behind the query text and the intent of the user is getting a certain task done. And they try to offer information able to satisfy that intent. This made me think a bit.
Well, if I was a search engine, I would try to get the tasks lists of all my users. This will really make my users satisfied (and there is no more need to try to infer the intent behind search queries)!
Not a very original thought anyway, in fact, the search engine Google already provided the functionality of keeping your tasks list in Gmail and I started trying it recently. What is terribly amazing is that now Google can work offline on my tasks list and try to get MY tasks done! Automatically!
Out of curiosity, I checked the task list I currently keep in Google and I quickly realized that this is possible, already possible!
Some tasks in my task list (and, yes, I need to update the already scary list of things Google knows about you) were:
- find someone to subrent a room in my apartment
- find someone able to install a music player in my car
- find a bed, possibly an used one as gift
- check new activity on the Livememories wiki
- fill burocracy about my work in univ of bolzano
- write a paper about recent work on trustlet and get it published
- book a flight for xyz around date abc
Well, for some of these tasks Google can already go around and suggest me solutions, just by juxtaposing relevant bits of information; for some can even go further and really do the task, for example I can authorize Google to search the flight and buy it for me without any intervention on my part!
just Imagine you have in the specific task page (such as http://www.google.com/paolo.massa/tasks/book_a_flight/ ) a list of suggestions or of automatic actions Google can perform or has already performed!!! This is really feasible, especially because now this can be done offline, I don’t expect Google to get the task done in the very precise moment I type it (while instead I expect Google to give me back relevant information in the moment I type a query!).
Of course Google cannot move my car and install a music player in it, but when we will move in the Internet of things (another topic that was very central in most talks at the FBK retreat) this might even become possible.
So let us analyze the possible situation in which we are/will be: now I have a robot (a software artifact, the search engine Google or Yahoo! or another one) that is replacing me in doing my stuff! Well of course we might start asking ourselves “if I am no more needed for getting things done, what is my role on earth? And why in the hell (!) would any employer pay me for what I do or I could do?”. And of course, the very next step would be “ok, robots can do everything. What about humans?” and then I would end in the not-very-original-I-must-admit forecast of a future Matrix-like world. But maybe it is better if I stop here ;)
Now this gives totally new dimensions to “getting things done“!