Other than the yearly pleading for donations, it’s been awhile since we’ve heard any real news from the brains behind Wikipedia. The only encyclopedia has been going strong for years now and it is still one of the most widely used sources on the Internet. Recently, Wikipedia announced that the company is working on a new website called Wikidata.
Wikidata will be a data website that’s largely driven by simple answers to simple questions. The site (like Wikipedia) will be open to editing from anyone or anything (robots included). As with Wikipedia, Wikidata will be free for the world to use and will be offered in a variety of different languages. Right now, the Germany-based Wikipedia team is working on perfecting the new site. The concept behind this site is to provide users with very quick answers to a variety of questions – kind of like the upcoming Google search engine. But are quick answers to simple questions a good thing?
Google’s Latest Announcement
Not too long ago, Google announced that the company would be setting up a new kind of search. The new Google search engine will provide basic answers to any question asked. For example, if you were to type “Chicago” into the new Google search bar, facts and statistics about Chicago will pop up. There will be no more need to read a lengthy article or to find out more information about Chicago other than the details that Google provides.
Seemingly, Wikidata will work the same way. When typing a question or the name of something into the Wikidata search bar, users will be given a list of data. So, were you to type “Chicago” into the Wikidata search bar, you would be given all kinds of facts about Chicago like the population size, current mayor, and other quick details in list form. As you can probably tell, Wikidata and the new Google search initiative aren’t too dissimilar. In fact, one could surmise that Google will grab some info from Wikidata.
Are Quick Answers to Questions A Good Thing?
So now that both Wikidata and Google will be providing quick answers to all kinds of questions, one has to wonder if this is a good thing. The population at large might be able to find out facts about an object, person, or city, but the real “meat” of any topic will be forgotten. Can we simply narrow down a question to bare bullet-pointed facts? Seemingly, the days of research and curiosity will be replaced by straightforward answers without any real knowledge or understanding to back those answers up.
Of course, the other (slightly philosophic) problem here is that data can be wrong. Data that a person finds on Wikidata or through a Google search may not be entirely correct, but that person won’t have a leg to stand on when the data being spewed is disputed. In short, sites like Wikidata and the new Google might make the population stupider, incapable of actual thought, and somewhat comparable to drones spitting out the same basic facts and details – none of which is a good thing.