xkcd and Google predict the future

As a repository for all human knowledge, Google must be able to see the future, or at least have as good of an idea of what's going to happen as the combination of everyone who posts stuff online. xkcd put this to the test by Googling variations of "by the year...," and while the good news is that we'll be immortal by 2040, the bad news is that the world's gonna end in 2012.

Here's the image (click on it to make it larger). Just a heads-up: it's long.

future_timeline.png

Now, we should of course point out that this is all mostly absurd, and Richard Feynman explains why in Surely You're Joking Mr. Feyman:

"Nobody was permitted to see the Emperor of China, and the question was, What is the length of the Emperor of China's nose? To find out, you go all over the country asking people what they think the length of the Emperor of China's nose is, and you average it. And that would be very "accurate" because you averaged so many people. But it's no way to find anything out; when you have a very wide range of people who contribute without looking carefully at it, you don't improve your knowledge of the situation by averaging."

I suppose you could argue that some of the things in the above infographic do actually stem from people looking closely at things, such as the predictions about computer computational abilities. The rest of it, though, just goes to show how nutty large groups of people can be sometimes. I mean, come on, cars driven by dogs in 2053? That's an unrealistically pessimistic prediction if I ever heard one.

Via xkcd

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