Google 2.0: Why MIT scientists are building a new search engine

The truth is a messy business, but an information revolution is coming. Danny Hillis and Peter Hopkins discuss knowledge, fake news and disruption at NeueHouse in Manhattan.

  • In 2005, Danny Hillis co-founded Freebase, an open-source knowledge database that was acquired by Google in 2010. Freebase formed the foundation of Google's famous Knowledge Graph, which enhances its search engine results and powers Google Assistant and Google Home.
  • Hillis is now building The Underlay, a new knowledge database and future search engine app that is meant to serve the common good rather than private enterprise. He calls it his "penance for having sold the other one to Google."
  • Powerful collections of machine-readable knowledge are becoming exceedingly important, but most are privatized and serve commercial goals.
  • Decentralizing knowledge and making information provenance transparent will be a revolution in the so-called "post-truth age". The Underlay is being developed at MIT by Danny Hillis, SJ Klein, Travis Rich.

Fact vs. Fiction: How Facts Are Made, and Who Decides What's True

What information can we trust? Truth isn't black and white, so here are three requirements every fact should meet.

The chances are good that you've used Wikipedia to define or discover something in the last week, if not 24 hours. It's currently the 5th most-visited website in the world. The English-language Wikipedia averages 800 new articles per day — but 1,000 articles are deleted per day, the site's own statistics page reports. That fluctuation is probably partly the result of mischievous users, but it is also an important demonstration of Wikipedia's quest for knowledge in motion. "As the world's consensus changes about what is reliable, verifiable information, the information for us will change too," says Katherine Maher, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation. Maher is careful to delineate between truth and knowledge. Wikipedia isn't a jury for truth, it's a repository for information that must be three things: neutral, verifiable, and determined with consensus. So how do we know what information to trust, in an age that is flooded with access, data, and breaking news? Through explaining how Wikipedia editors work and the painstaking detail and debate that goes into building an article, Maher offers a guide to separating fiction from fact, which can be applied more broadly to help us assess the quality of information in other forums.

Why People Use Information Avoidance to Choose Their Own Reality

A new study explains why and how people choose to avoid information and when that strategy could be beneficial.

Visualization of World Wide Web at London art conference. Credit: Getty Images.

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