Google is looking to improve its search engine’s “featured snippet” service, so it will stop providing quick answers to stupid questions, the company announced.
This means users should be less likely to answer questions like “When did Snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln?”
Pandu Nayak, head of search at the company, said: In a blog post announcing the change“We’ve trained our system to better detect these kinds of false assumptions. It’s not very common, but sometimes showing a featured snippet doesn’t help.” This update has reduced featured snippet triggers in these cases by 40%.”
Snippets have long been a cornerstone of the company’s AI strategy, sometimes appearing as the primary answer to direct questions on Google Search. The same technology powers the company’s Smart His speakers and voice assistants, allowing search engines to respond to search queries without visitors having to click through to other His websites.
But snippets that are automatically generated from website content have been a bane on Google’s part for just as long. In 2017, the company was accused of spreading “fake news about him” after a featured snippet of the query “Is President Obama planning a coup?” The voice assistant tells the user cheerfully: “Obama may actually be planning a communist coup at the end of his 2016 term,” after finding information on a conspiracy theory website.
Other errors are more comical. The company jokingly tells users that it was in 1946 that he invented the staircase, and unknowingly when asked, “Why are fire trucks red?” Without realizing it, Monty was repeating Python jokes.
To address the root cause of such mistakes, Google is rolling out a new warning when a search term hits a “data void” (a question for which a good answer may not exist).
“This search doesn’t seem to yield very good results,” the site now warns users hit by such queries.
“This does not mean that useful information is not available or that certain results are of poor quality,” says Nayak. “These notifications provide context about the entire result set on the page, and you can always see the results of your queries, even if recommendations exist.”
‘Data Invalidation’: Google Stops Answering Ridiculous Questions | Google
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