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What we can learn from these less-than-legit Google Knowledge Graph answers

There’s truth, “truthiness,” and then, in between, there’s the Google Knowledge Graph.

You know the Google Knowledge Graph — or at least you use it. The Google Knowledge Graph is the results box that doesn’t just direct you to links with answers, but instead actually gives you the answers.

Even, as we learned this week, when those answers aren’t 100 percent accurate. Googling “what happened to the dinosaurs?” displays a less-than-perfect result, sourced from is a Christian Web site that references the biblical book of Genesis to answer questions of science. As their “About Us” page states: “We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.” purports that Adam, Eve and dinosaurs were all created on Day Six of creation.

Also, Noah brought dinosaurs on the ark.

Hence this sentence that appears in the Google Knowledge Graph, pulled straight from “Dinosaurs are used more than anything else to indoctrinate children and adults in the idea of millions of years of earth history.”

Definitely up for debate.

A similar Knowledge Graph snafu occurred earlier this week when users searched “When is National Best Friend Day?” National Best Friend Day is (of course) (sadly) a fictitious holiday, but Google provided a totally legit-seeming Knowledge Graph result (see what we mean about the truthiness?).

These two high-profile fails reemphasize what we already know: the Google Knowledge Graph isn’t a Truth Machine, as much as it appears to be when you’re Googling things like “when is Beyonce’s birthday?” and “what is the capital of the United States?”

The Knowledge Graph is still a tool, provided by a search engine. You should examine the results returned with the same skepticism you use when reading the Internet at large. Google Knowledge Graph results are produced algorithmically — they’re pulling from what’s out there on the Web already.

“We try to help however we can, whether it’s celebrating your BFF or finding the answer to life, the universe, and everything,” said Jason Freidenfelds of Google.

And beyond life, the universe and everything, there’s the mildly-existential question: When Google says something is true, at what point does it become … actually true?

As previously reported on The Intersect and elsewhere, we’re not far away from a universe in which Google can distinguish “facts” from facts from dinosaurs on Noah’s ark.

Google has already begun experimenting with a technology that would weigh accuracy when presenting answers to these same questions. You can already see this at work — Googling health questions returns physician-approved results, sourced from a Google-assembled team of doctors from the Mayo Clinic. This ensures the information you’re receiving via Google is clinically sound — for the sake of searchers’ health.

Next steps? Better answers for your non-medical questions. Questions just like “What happened to the dinosaurs?” and “When is National Best Friend Day?”

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