A FEW years back, a technology writer named John Battelle began talking about how the Internet had made it possible to predict the future. When people went to the home page of Google or Yahoo and entered a few words into a search engine, what they were really doing, he realized, was announcing their intentions.
They typed in “Alaskan cruise” because they were thinking about taking one or “baby names” because they were planning on needing one. If somebody were to add up all this information, it would produce a pretty good notion of where the world was headed, of what was about to get hot and what was going out of style.
Mr. Battelle, a founder of Wired magazine and the Industry Standard, wasn’t the first person to figure this out. But he did find a way to describe the digital crystal ball better than anyone else had. He called it “the database of intentions.”
This is all great fun, but is this “database of intentions” really going to tell us something new about ourselves? It seems to me that so far the digital crystal ball has mostly helped us with our shopping.