Google’s psychic feature an example of positive feedback?

Bettina Wulff is suing Google because she considers Google’s auto-completion a statement Google is making (see graphic below, this blog will not contribute yet another document where the three terms appear together). The German ex-first lady had her name involved with undesirable milieus and took legal action against it.

One of the targets of her legal action is Google whose search engine has a so called psychic feature which tries to auto-complete your search term. Google will probably defend this by saying that its psychic feature uses the most common searches made by people. This is however only half true. The reason is that it is an example of positive feedback. Once the search term became common enough offering it in auto-completion helps make it permanent there. While all Google is doing is to show what people search for that very act reenforces the tendency of people to search for what Frau Wulf considers undesirable. It is like a chemical reaction which releases heat but which is also accelerated by heat.

My suggestion to Frau Wulff: make Google break down the searches for the top-suggested, three-word search. The breakdown should be a time series and it should tell us what percentage of the search came from the psychic feature. Google can definitely break this down. It will determine the extend to which Google’s psychic feature is a statement rather than say a poll.

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