19 June 2020


You searched for "microbiology".
Here are the results for "Game of Thrones".
(Search instead for "microbiology".)
Dear Amazon Music,
I should be grateful if you would kindly not give me search results other than those I have requested. For example, results for "Atlus", when I have typed "Altus". Especially since Altus is a well-known and well-respected musician with a string of albums to his name, many of which are actually listed in your own catalogue. Thank you.
Regards, etc.

Dear Google,
Some time ago you pursued the strategy of diverting searchers for "mediocracy" towards "mediocrity", even though the former word was a well-established member of the Oxford Dictionary. Although users were given the option of "search instead for mediocracy", the diversion is bound to have had some effect, statistically speaking.
   I note that, for some time now, the diversion from mediocracy to mediocrity has not been generated by Google Search. However, there are no doubt many other diversions currently in force, and these are likely to feed back on language, and hence on the thought processes of the millions who use your service.
Regards, etc.

Dear internet software giants,
By correcting users' search entries, you are having effects on the way language is used, and are influencing the direction of culture. While your strategy provides assistance to the differently abled — and happens conveniently to coincide with profit maximisation — you may wish to consider whether the effect is beneficial overall.
   One of the strengths of the internet has been to allow the representation of minority viewpoints and preferences via the Long Tail effect. (Sometimes those 'minority' viewpoints turn out to be less minority than had been thought.) However, the effect depends to some extent on respecting deviations from the popular option when entered into search bars.
Regards, etc.

PS. Bizarre but true: for several days at the start of 2017, there was a glitch in Google Search that caused clicking on "search instead for" to generate exactly the same page as before — as if one had pressed the refresh key.
Here are the search results for mediocrity. (Search instead for mediocracy.)
Here are the search results for mediocrity. (Search instead for mediocracy.)
Here are ...
So it actually became nigh impossible to search for deviant terms. A nightmarish situation that seemed like a cross between Kafka and Groundhog Day.