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Are ‘real’ books useful?

Walking through the aisles of the library, shelf by shelf, looking for a book to find a precise line to cite in a research paper can be an exhausting and a time-consuming process. Finding the book alone is hectic enough. As students, the struggle of finding credible sources for a research paper is one that is relatable to many and what is worse is having to sift through the pages to look for in-text citations.

Fortunately, Google LLC’s recent development in artificial intelligence creates a more natural and semantic personal assistant, where one can simply type any statement or question, and the AI will scan every sentence in 100,000 volumes from Google Books — the results will pop up, showing the user books relative to the query.

For example, if one is writing a paper about autism, they would only have to type in, “Does autism affect development?” The results will show several related books with their associated passages. One reads, “The studies of 5-HT synthesis in autism have been conflicting. Several studies have not found any difference between individuals with and those without autism.” That entry is from Autism Spectrum Disorders: Identification, Education, and Treatment by Dianne Zager.

Even comically typing something as absurd as why feet stink into Talk to Books will produce the result, “…to the odor we leave behind when we walk. The front part of our feet also has a thinner sole and wears quicker than the heel, so odorous substances emerge easily from the pores, the humidity from the sweat produced at the front of the foot helping to quickly spread the odors. The front part of the foot sweats a lot.”

According to Google’s head of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, he said that natural speech and AIs are now closer than ever to understanding what we think.

“Developed with machine learning, it uses ‘natural language understanding’ of words and phrases.” Having Talk to Books can theoretically replace asking a librarian for help since it has the human-like capabilities of learning and building upon that foundation of knowledge.

Besides research,  people are curious by nature. They want to know more and improve themselves. Often, people ask those who have had success about what books they have read. It is logical to build upon that and utilize Talk to Books as a supplemental tool to discovering books to read for self-improvement.

As of now, two weeks into the program’s launch date, Talk to Books has received mostly positive reviews from a few media companies such as The Verge and Lifehacker. There are still improvements to be made as the technology becomes more refined and introduced into the educational system.

In a recent survey, many college students have not heard of the newest update from Google. When showed how it can be used, a majority agree that it can be influential in the future, and that it still has much room to grow. Similar to how everyone is using Google search to look up facts, Talk to Books has the space to grow into the more reliable way of searching for information as opposed to reading from online articles. Only time will tell as AIs truly become a thing of the present rather than the future.

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May 7, 2018

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