Google’s new search tool answers questions by reading thousands of books

Will AI usher in the singularity? Chris Anderson interviewing Ray Kurzweil TED2018 - The Age of Amazement, April 10 - 14, 2018, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Imagine if you could gather thousands of writers in a circle to discuss one question. What would optimist Thomas L. Friedman say about intervening in Syria, for example? Would chaos theorist Santo Banerjee concur?

Google now has a way to convene that kind of forum—in half a second. Speaking to TED curator Chris Anderson yesterday (April 13), legendary futurist Ray Kurzweil introduced “Talk to Books” a new way to find answers on the internet that should bring pleasure to researchers, bookworms and anyone seeking to expand their thinking on a range of topics.

Type a question into “Talk to Books,” and AI-powered tool will scan every sentence in 100,000 volumes in Google Books and generate a list of likely responses with the pertinent passage bolded.

Talk to Books will tackle any query you have, however trivial, esoteric, or abstract. For example, here are the first two results for “How can I stop thinking and fall asleep?”:

Often people with sleep problems do actually sleep during some part of the night but don’t realise that they do. If you suspect that this is happening for you, then try giving yourself reassuring messages that you can gradually fall asleep. You can also reassure yourself that: from Self-Hypnosis For Dummies by Mike Bryant, Peter Mabbutt

…asleep right away, I try to focus my thoughts on God’s protection until I naturally drift away (Psalm 3:5-6, 4:8; 121:4). By sending your mind to something restful, stimuli to the brain is reduced and you naturally fall asleep. The more you get in a routine, the easier it is to keep it, since your body gets used to it.(view in book) from Thriving at College: Make Great Friends, Keep Your Faith, and Get Ready for the … by Alex Chediak, Alex Harris, Brett Harris

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