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Google is Omniscient

January 13, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Yesterday, I read this article, and thought that this book – which is mentioned in said article – might be interesting. Later that night, I found myself at a bookstore, and I realized it was a good opportunity for me to skim through the book and decide if it is worth reading. Unfortunately, I could remember neither the name nor the author of the book. I took what I thought was a long shot and asked the person working behind the register. This is what I told him (more or less):


I am looking for this book. I don’t know the title or the author, except that he is Japanese. The book was translated to English and released around 1999 or 2000 [it was published in the U.S. in 1998]. The book is about a guy looking for his cat and wife [pause]. He’s not really looking for his wife and cat. It’s a metaphorical journey [I have no idea if it is a “metaphorical journey”, but saying that the book is about a guy looking for his wife and cat made it sound like I was looking for a children’s book]. I think it has “wind” in the title.


At first, the person seemed overwhelmed by the request, but then said, “let me see what I can do.”
He started typing on his computer then stopped. “Are you talking about Murakami,” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied.
“I could tell you if I saw it.”
“Let me see if he has any books with the word ‘wind’ in it,” and he ran off to look.
About a minute later, he returns exclaiming, “I found it! Here it is. About a guy looking for his wife and cat.”


I was amazed. I had zero hope that he could help me. 


Afterwards, it got me wondering. How would I have phrased my question in Google? I certainly could not describe it like I did to the book seller. My best guess would have been “japanese author cat wife novel“. Certainly, that would be too ambigous.


I was wrong (again).


Looking through the search results, the book is sixth and Murakami is listed tenth. I didn’t even have to go to the second list of results.


I should have ran the search before writing this, because my original point was that Google is still not as good as a human. But I am apparently wrong.  I only publish this because I’ve spent a good 30 minutes writing it, and I wrote more than usual. This is why you should do your research first, then start blogging.


If anyone has read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, feel free to share your opinion of it. I read the first few pages, and thought it is well worth reading. I didn’t end up buying it because I knew I could get it cheaper on Amazon.


I’m a cheap bastard.

Categories: General Chatter
  1. Bibliophile
    January 13, 2007 at 8:19 am

    You marvel at the clerk’s skills, but end up not rewarding his employer by buying the book there? What was the price difference?

  2. rjs
    January 13, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    Hang your head in shame, cheapskate.

  3. January 25, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    I read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle in 2005 or 2006 and was thoroughly impressed. It’s long but well worth the time investment. Reminded me of David Lynch at parts.

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