Media reports recently noted that the word ‘anti national’, if searched on Google Maps, shows you the Jawaharlal Nehru University. In fact, you can type words like ‘sedition’, ‘Kanhaiya’ and Rohit Vemulla and they will all lead to the same destination. While many have questioned Google’s Search engine for the same, the incident actually offers some insight into how the Search engine works. Here’s how.
If you’ve been a regular Google Maps user, you would know that the engine is based on much more than just locations. Google makes Maps more accurate using a lot of different resources, and one of them is the important news within the country. So, when you search for the word ‘anti national’, Google’s search spider (the algorithm that actually performs the Search function), crawls the web finding the most relevant results.
Now, if there was a place called anti-national, the spider would most likely give it first preference. Having said that, Google’s algorithms are tuned to return the most relevant result, and considering events in the past few months, the gaffe is actually a peek at how Google Maps works. Of course, it could be a bug as well, but one that will be identified only when the situation arises. It’s like fighting a virus once it has been identified. You can’t expect to fight a disease before you know about it right? Similarly, considering the implementation of artificial intelligence algorithms and the various others that Google does, it’s practically impossible for the company to know about this bug before someone actually types in the keyword anti national. It would also be reasonable to expect that no one actually searches for the above mentioned words on Google Maps.
In fact, a Google spokesperson responded to our queries, saying, “We’re aware of the issue and are working on a fix,” which further corroborates the bug theory.
Having said that, the result actually shows you the oft pointed out difference between machines and humans. The machine doesn’t lie, because of which it returns the most accurate result for ‘anti national’, and that is what has been appreciated so far by almost all of us. It is the reason we prefer Maps over most other navigation services as well. Google doesn’t have a human sitting at the other end, since the task is done much faster by the machine.