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Google’s Algorithm Is Lying to You About Onions and Blaming Me for It 

Posted on March 8th, 2017 at 17:31 by John Sinteur in category: News -- Write a comment


Not only does Google, the world’s preeminent index of information, tell its users that caramelizing onions takes “about 5 minutes”—it pulls that information from an article whose entire point was to tell people exactly the opposite. A block of text from the Times that I had published as a quote, to illustrate how it was a lie, had been extracted by the algorithm as the authoritative truth on the subject.

Five years after I thought I had buried the falsehood about quick onion cooking, Google is dragging it out of its grave to send it shambling into unsuspecting users’ kitchens. In fact, it made the lie even worse, because Google’s automated text analysis is too dumb to recognize that “about 5 minutes” followed by “about 5 minutes longer” means 10 minutes.

Do not try caramelizing onions in five minutes. And do not listen to Google.

And when it’s doing something as simple as that wrong, imagine what it’s doing with political facts. And imagine most people soon won’t even see contact, but just get a regurgitated snippet from alexa or siri.

Or, from twitter

  1. A few weeks ago, my wife (who is a psychologist with her own practice) noticed that when you google her name, a photo came up next to her information. The issue was not only was the photo not her, but it was a photo of two women without much on laying one on top of the other. We tried a number of ways to contact google and flag the photo as having nothing to do with her or her practice. The only response we got was that she should contact the person who owns the website where the photo was located and add some code to the page so the photos would be linked to other sites/people. It was their algorithm that linked it solely because one of the names on the blog where the photo came from had the same name as my wife. As we have a common last name, there are probably hundreds if not thousands of women with the same name as my wife. Since the blog owner didn’t feel like taking action, the only thing we could do was flag it and then add a bunch of photos to google’s information about her practice.

  2. Larry Niven’s famous science-fiction short story ‘The Jigsaw Man’, written way back in 1967, had the protagonist’s name as [generic Western-sounding name] followed by a less-than-10-digit alphanumeric code which was his social security number, telephone number, citizen number, driving license number etc, all in one.
    I’m sure Niven was just trying to make it look futuristic, but given b’s comments above, it’s not impossible to believe that, for our own protection from other people with the same, or similar, names as us, people will one day, or might have to one day, add a unique identifier to our names just to prevent misunderstanding’s like that.

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