January 5, 2010
How mainstream will Wolfram|Alpha become, compared with search engines like Google or Bing?
These are complementary kinds of things. It’s like asking, how successful is science going to be in the world? It’s saying, what can you compute in the world? How could search engines become so important? When it becomes sufficiently easy to be a reference librarian hundreds of times a day.
I think the set of people for whom Wolfram|Alpha is useful is very broad. It’s a sobering comment on the human condition what people are actually typing in [to search engines]. We don’t see the porn, the celebrity gossip, but we do see lots of stuff where people try to figure out, in a machine shop, what size of drill should they use to make a hole of a certain size. Or how far is it from here to there, or how does this compare to that.
I expect in time, the things we’re doing will become commonplace. My children are playing with Wolfram|Alpha; it’s trivial to find out things. Gradually, they become well absorbed into the culture, and things become assumed. Even with NKS, in a different direction, I wrote in the preface, all these things that when the book comes out will seem shocking, in time will seem completely obvious and commonplace.