Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov envisioned a computer called Multivac, powerful enough to process all of the planet’s data. Humanity painstakingly collects massive quantities of information to submit to Multivac on a daily basis, in exchange for the opportunity to ask questions of it.
With so much information at its disposal, Multivac is capable of amazing feats of analysis and prediction, which guide humanity to resolving global problems of war, poverty and so on.
The corporate mission statement of Google, Inc. is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Google constantly processes information from the web, books, and photographic imagery from space and from the surface of the planet. Its famously simple search interface invites humans to ask it about anything, and it provides instantaneous answers in the form of references to information it has collected.
Google is not yet capable, in general, of providing meaningful answers to natural language questions, though research is ongoing, and systems like Wolfram Alpha hint at more abstract manipulation of data at a global scale.
We seem to be edging closer to Asimov’s vision of Multivac. What would you ask Multivac, given the opportunity? How will our future reality differ from science fiction?