Making the world’s knowledge computable

A few days ago a friend of mine sent a link to Wolfram|Alpha, due to be released about now. The brain child of distinguished scientist, inventor, author, and business leader  Stephen Wolfram, Wolfram|Alpha’s long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. Wolfram is also known as the  creator of Mathematica, a powerful computational and visualisation tool upon which Wolfram|Alpha has been built.

I’ve spent a bit of time playing around with the search functionality and am impressed. While the search results at this stage tend to very US-centric in terms of the range of sources of information the potential of the tool can be seen immediately.

This is certainly one of those “watch this space” pieces of technology that will continue to grow and pave a way forward in the whole area of online search in years to come.

Watching the screencast is a good way to become familiar with what it can do.

4 thoughts on “Making the world’s knowledge computable

  1. I have two stories to share about this – one was my 19 year old’s unparalleled excitement about sharing this tool with all of us last night. It’s premise seemed to engage him in a way I have NEVER seen before. On the flip side my 10 year old used it this morning to do maths homework (multiplying and dividing whole numbers by 10, 100 and 1000) which he could actually do faster in his head! It is impressive but I must admit to not getting it in quite the way the way they are.

  2. I am fascinated by this ‘computable knowledge’. I love the way that this tool can go ‘above and beyond’ what was being asked – like when I ask for the GDP of New Zealand divided by the population of New Zealand, and it shows me a graph of this calculation from 1970 through until today. I then immediately compared the same equation with other countries and picked up the sad story… relatively speaking. (Sometimes it does get a bit smart however … Do I really need to know how long it takes light to get to Hokitika from Greymouth when I’m just asking for a distance!)

    Using this engine is quite different to search as we know it, but I have the feeling that this is the beginning of something rather exciting, and some time learning to use it is likely to be well rewarded.

  3. Good post, Derek.

    They have a good strategy – to be different from Google. Not bigger, faster, more comprehensive.

    No. Just different. As such they may become a complementary search service – for different styles of search and for different people.

  4. Hi Derek
    I was given the site to take a peek, it is very detailed and will take some getting used to. The application for teaching is very interesting and is the subject of much debate with one of my more ‘techy’ colleagues in the North Island!
    It is amazing to receive much more than what is required at first glance, the uses one can put the information to is amazing!!
    Thanks you! I do look foward to more….as time allows!

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