Answering a Question Posed in an Essay about Search

February 1, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

One of my research team asked me to take a look at an essay located at “Notes on Search and AI: More Questions Than Answers” reflects the angst generated by generative artificial intelligence. The burr under the saddle of many online users is festering. The plumbing of search is leaking and many of the thumb-typing generation are getting their Airbirds soaked. The discomfort is palpable. One of the people with whom I chat mentioned that some smart software outfits did not return the financial results the MBA whiz kid analysts expected. (Hello, Microsoft?)

The cited essay ends with a question:

Beep boop. What are you thinking about?

Since the author asked, I will answer the question to the best of my ability.


Traditional research skills are irrelevant. Hit the mobile and query, “Pizza near me.” Yep, that works, just not for the small restaurant or “fact”. Thanks, MSFT Copilot Bing thing. How is your email security today? Good enough I bet.

First, most of those who consider themselves good or great online searchers, the emergence of “smart” software makes it easy to find information. The problem is that for good or great online searchers, their ability to locate, verify, analyze, and distill “information” lags behind their own perception of their expertise. In general, the younger online searching expert, the less capable some are. I am basing this on the people with whom I speak in my online and in-person lectures. I am thinking that as these younger people grow older, the old-fashioned research skills will be either unknown, unfamiliar, or impossible. Information cannot be verified nor identified as authoritative. I am thinking that the decisions made based on actionable information is going to accelerate doors popping off aircraft, screwed up hospital patient information systems, and the melancholy of a young cashier when asked to make change by a customer who uses fungible money. Yes, $0.83 from $1.00 is $0.17. Honest.

Second, the jargon in the write up is fascinating. I like words similar to “precision,” “recall,” and “relevance,” among others. The essay explains the future of search with words like these:

Experiences, AI-generated and indexable
Interfaces, adaptive and just-in-time
LLM-powered alerts
Search quality
Slime helper

I am thinking that I cannot relate my concept of search and retrieval to the new world the write up references. I want to enter a query into a data base. For that database, I want to know what is in it, when it was updated, and why the editorial policies are for validity, timeliness, coverage, and other dinobaby concepts. In short, I want to do the research work using online when necessary. Other methods are usually required. These include talking to people, reading books, and using a range of reference tools at that endangered institution, the library.

Third, I am thinking that the equipment required for analytic thinking, informed analysis, and judicious decision making is either discarded or consigned to the junk heap.

In short, I am worried because I don’t want indexable experiences, black-box intermediaries, and predictability. I want to gather information and formulate my views based on content I can cite. That’s the answer, and it is not one the author of the essay is seeking. Too bad. Yikes, slime helper.

Stephen E Arnold, February 1, 2024


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