Quantum Search: Consultants, Rev Your Engines

April 18, 2019

Search is a utility function. A number of companies have tried to make it into a platform upon which a business or a government agency’s mission rests. Nope.

In fact, for a decade I published “Beyond Search” and just got tired of repeating myself. Search works if one has a bounded domain, controlled vocabularies, consistent indexing, and technology which embraces precision and recall.

Today, not so much. People talk about search and lose their grip on the accuracy, relevance, and verifiability of the information retrieved. It’s not just wonky psycho-economic studies which cannot be replicated. Just try running the same query on two different mobile phones owned by two different people.

Against this background, please, read “How the Quantum Search Algorithm Works.” The paper contains some interesting ideas; for example:

It’s incredible that you need only examine an NN-item search space on the order of \sqrt{N}N?times in order to find what you’re looking for. And, from a practical point of view, we so often use brute search algorithms that it’s exciting we can get this quadratic speedup. It seems almost like a free lunch. Of course, quantum computers still being theoretical, it’s not quite a free lunch – more like a multi-billion dollar, multi-decade lunch!

Yes, incredible.

However, the real impact of this quantum search write up will be upon the search engine optimization crowd. How quickly will methods for undermining relevance be found.

Net net: Quantum or not, search seems destined to repeat its 50 year history in a more technically sophisticated computational environment. Consultants, abandon your tired explanations of federated search. Forget mere geo-tagging. Drill right into the heart of quantum possibilities. I am eagerly awaiting a Forrester wave report on quantum search and a Gartner magic quadrant, filled with subjective possibilities.

Stephen E Arnold, April 18, 2019

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