Tuesday, March 7, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

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

Tom Scocca (via Andrew Abernathy):

So when I saw the news that Google’s search result box has been giving people bogus information in its algorithmic search for the One True Answer to various questions, I thought about the onions. If Google can’t figure out whether Barack Obama is plotting a coup or not, or whether or not MSG is lethal, can it at least recognize that the lie about cooking onions is a lie?

I typed “how long does it take to caramelize onions” into Chrome. The answer was worse than I could have imagined[…]

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.

[…]

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.

See also: Google’s “One True Answer” problem.

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