Could a Newly Launched Metaphorical Search Engine Really Work?

Could a Newly Launched Metaphorical Search Engine Really Work?

When I first heard of Yossarian Lives, a website that bills itself as the metaphorical search engine, I thought "no way!" Good metaphors are inherently artistic and depend on a nuanced understanding of related topics, both very human qualities. Indeed, when I had a chance to fool around with the alpha version of Yossarian Lives it seemed to function as a glorified "random" button on your average stock photo library. 

My conclusion was perhaps premature. This summer Yossarian Lives came out of beta testing and launched with a new polished interface:

The new website is fun to play around with, it's certainly got the potential to be helpful to writers and artists for the purposes of providing a touch of inspiration when faced with a brick wall. Below, for example, was the top Yossarian Lives search result when I typed in "brick wall" myself.

The text is mine - which is another nice touch. When Yossarian Lives discovers two related ideas, you can provide your own off-the-cuff explanation for the relationship, adding to the data Yossarian Lives has to play with. Moreover, you see a completely different set of results each time you hit search. For example, another click of the mouse brought me the following images:

The website allows you to control the level of distance between the search term and results. Edging the slider up a notch to "distant lateral", for instance, returns results that are somewhat more haphazard:

With another crank of the lever to the level of "Serendipitous," we begin to see a beautifully obscure collection of imagery. Feel free to leave your hypothesis for the relationship between a brick wall and the search results below in the comments:

For the purposes of comparison, below is the Google Image Search result for the same search term. If I were searching online for inspiration for another metaphor to describe the feeling of hitting a brick wall, I know which website I'd prefer.

Another similar site to launch this summer is Seenapse, which aims to help people make mental associations that could lead to insight. Seenapse plays more heavily on the role of the user to create connections. It is essentially a massive word association game with hyperlinks. When users link pairs of ideas, they must explain the connection and add a hyperlink. When I searched for "brick wall" on Seenapse, it returned the following results:

In one case above, the search returned OK Go's song "The Writing's On The Wall," which somebody linked to a puzzle game called Echochrome due to its use of perspective to create optical illusions. Like with Yossarian Lives, we are quickly a very long way away from the idea of a brick wall.

Interestingly, the computer generated results from Yossarian Lives seem far more useful than the human generated results obtained from Seenapse. Yet as shown by my search for "brick wall," the computer-generated results alone are not yet particularly useful without some human input. They may provide a useful springboard, however. Do you think these applications have the potential to be useful? Why not have a go yourself and let me know in the comments.

Via Smithsonian & Fastcompany

Follow Neurobonkers on TwitterFacebookRSS or join the mailing list

Image Credit: Yossarian Lives, Seenapse

No, the Yellowstone supervolcano is not ‘overdue’

Why mega-eruptions like the ones that covered North America in ash are the least of your worries.

Ash deposits of some of North America's largest volcanic eruptions.

Image: USGS - public domain
Strange Maps
  • The supervolcano under Yellowstone produced three massive eruptions over the past few million years.
  • Each eruption covered much of what is now the western United States in an ash layer several feet deep.
  • The last eruption was 640,000 years ago, but that doesn't mean the next eruption is overdue.
Keep reading Show less

Smartly dressed: Researchers develop clothes that sense movement via touch

Measuring a person's movements and poses, smart clothes could be used for athletic training, rehabilitation, or health-monitoring.

Technology & Innovation

In recent years there have been exciting breakthroughs in wearable technologies, like smartwatches that can monitor your breathing and blood oxygen levels.

Keep reading Show less

Do you worry too much? Stoicism can help

How imagining the worst case scenario can help calm anxiety.

Stoicism can help overcome anxiety

Credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY via Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • Stoicism is the philosophy that nothing about the world is good or bad in itself, and that we have control over both our judgments and our reactions to things.
  • It is hardest to control our reactions to the things that come unexpectedly.
  • By meditating every day on the "worst case scenario," we can take the sting out of the worst that life can throw our way.
Keep reading Show less