Ch 2: Social Search

Crowdsourcing As a Shortcut to the Technological Singularity (Free E-book)

Next Chapter…(CH3 Task Me the Money)

Ch2’s Logic

Let’s Start with a Short Story:

Social-Search Takes a Walk…

You are walking down a street leading into the park, and you remember to put your augmented reality (AR) / video-streaming glasses on when a question pops into your mind.
You say out loud, “What kind of tree is that?”. Almost immediately a small image of a smiling woman pops into the corner of the AR-interface. It’s a profile picture, and under it is a text-field that is highlighted which says, ‘Sarah, botany-geek’. And, there’s more text under that which says, ” Hi there. That looks like a type of eucalyptus. Did you know that there are more than 700 species of eucalyptus tree?”
You respond by saying “ did not know that, wow! Cool, thanks. The leaves have a wonderful smell, and I was just curious.” She sends back a quick message saying ‘You are very welcome!’, and you continue on your walk.
Next, you notice you are hungry, and you are considering asking this social-search app to recommend a great vegan BBQ-sandwich in your area. Hoping that someone is active on the network that had one, … but then you see something.
A child is laying on his back, on the edge of a soccer field, and his face is turning blue. Apparently there’s a large jawbreaker lodged in his throat. There are a bunch of other kids standing around him, and they are all freaking out. You don’t know CPR, but you remember this new social search app has 911 operators on-call for emergencies. You say, “9–1–1 emergency!”, and immediately you are video-chatting with an EMT in your glasses, getting visual directions and visual examples of what to do. You manage to follow all the steps for CPR correctly, and pop, out comes the jawbreaker, and the kid takes a big gasp of air.
That kid was darn-lucky you were wearing those glasses! (The nearest emergency response person to help him would have been over 15 minutes away.)

What is Social-Search?

As explained in the introduction in more detail, social-search is the powerful technique behind a type of search-engine that uses real people to answer search-queries in real-time (or at least semi-real time).

And, since search via algorithm (i.e., a typical search-engine), although getting better every year, is ineffectual much of the time, it’s a compelling idea. That’s why a handful of question-and-answer sites have amassed large user bases, and the idea of seeking answers from the crowd continues to be popular.

(If you ever research it, however, be aware that social-search is best known by another name, ‘Question and Answer Sites’.)

How Can We Upgrade It?

We can amp-up social-search / Q & A sites (and related services) in a number of ways using tech we have today:

  • Live Video: By using live video-feeds from glasses with AR (augmented reality) capabilities, we can share our view of the here and now, (i.e., whatever has our attention at that moment, the audio too) while getting feedback on it from crowds of people or individuals.
  • Real-Time Answers: Even without video or audio input (i.e., text only), for social-search to work, it must deliver results quickly. Fewer things are more fickle than the human attention-span. Also, to make judgments, we need to know answers quickly in order to act on time. By making a social-search engines that can guarantee quick answers from real human beings, we could have a really powerful tool on our hands.
  • A Big Network: To ensure that a real-time social-search engine works, it will need people, preferably a lot of them! It would be best, then, to be able to tap into popular social-networking sites for this. That way, people with varying expertise can be found at all times to answer all the kinds of questions that show up.
  • Different Options for Interacting: Not everyone will be able to broadcast video (sometimes called ‘life-casting’), or audio. Also, not everyone will be able to listen to you via audio, or view what you see through your video stream, so there should always be a number of options for how to interact within a social-search community. This could include transcribing audio automatically using speech-recognition software, or having text be read out-loud (from the answers submitted to questions, etc) with a robot voice.

How Brilliant Could We Become?

With a tool like this in people’s hands (or in their eyes to be specific), we would all become brilliant most of the time as we listen to the crowd-powered agents whispering in our ears.

These are the key things we will be able to know with a system like this (i.e., the things that will make us brilliant):


For facts that aren’t stored on some webpage, or facts that only a person would know, social-search is ideal.

“How many birds are sitting on the Robocop Statue in Detroit at this Moment?”


An answer that requires a human’s opinion.

“Do you think my Halloween costume is offensive?”


A question that requires someone to guide you through an action:

“How should I throw this boomerang so that it goes into the air at an angle and then comes right back to me (so I can catch it)?”


An answer that needs the perspective of someone who has gone through
the same thing:

“Will this Slick-and-Slack oil-change place try to up-sell me? It’s the
one in Dayton, Ohio.”

Ask information from people who have been where you are about to go, or even ask people about a specific experience they’ve had at that place.”

Hyper-Local Information:

An answer that is time and location sensitive.

“How long is the line for the post-office in Arcadia, California right now?”


“Where’s s an example of really old crumbling sidewalk in this town? I need to take a picture of one for an art project.”

Get answers about hyper-local information.

How it Could Bring Us into the Future Faster

Armed with a robust social-search app in something like AR glasses, the ability to quickly assess situations, get feedback, or inform your decisions will help the scientists, programmers, and leaders of today reach their visions for tech sooner. And, it gives novices the ability to become (or at least act like) virtual Q&A angels on their shoulders.

I mean…Why not connect to your fellow man the way you really want to (impersonally and based on expediency, expertise and by reputation)? lol.

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