Introduction

In this digital age, search engines has massively reduced the time required to reach information from a distant place. Never in human history has such a capability been offered to us. Though a force for good, certain bias and policies within  organisations offering this service might indeed affect engineering pedagogy.  The most popular of these providers, Google, seem to have a high level of flexibility within its user policy, however, Noble’s [1] talk on algorithms of opression which higlighted how Google’s algorithms discrimination against women of colour is quite worrying. The thought of an alogrithm having an influence on ones quality of life is not pleasant as mensioned by O’Neil [2]. It is not immediate evident how this might affect engineering pedagogy, however, given these precedences, algorithms could indeed be structured to control the quality of information accessible in academia. There are accidental or intentional consequences of such an action on the quality of graduates. A justification for such control can be based on security grounds, where the flow of technologically sensitive information are limited. Yet, this should be the prerogative of  governmental agencies and not employees of a private search cooporation. Bing, DuckDuckGo and Ecosia do offer some interesting alternatives to Google, however, their biases are yet to be fully known. DuckDuckGo [3] claims it doesnt track its user while Ecosia [4] improves the environment with its tree planting policy. Some blogs seem to suggest these Google alternative rely on other engines for their search. Infact, Microsoft’s Bing might inherently have a similar bias to Google since Shankland [5] blogged about a battle between Google and Bing where Google claimed that Bing simply copied its result.  A quick test on all four platforms show they realize completely different results when the same word was entered. While this primitive test suggests contrasting bias, it is difficult to know the nature of extent of the biases. Parent organisations offering the searching service are progressively removing the biases. While we wait for the perfect engine, it is probably best we simulteneously compare results from numerous engines when seeking state of the art engineering information.

 

References

[1] Safiya Umoja Nobl, “Algorithms of Oppression”, Youtube, [30 May 2020],  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KLTpoTpkXo&feature=youtu.be

[2] Cathy O’Neil, “The era of blind Faith in big data must end”, TED, [30, May, 2020], https://www.ted.com/talks/cathy_o_neil_the_era_of_blind_faith_in_big_data_must_end#t-10269

[3] DuckDuckgo, “Welome to DuckDuckgo”, [30, May, 2020]https://www.ted.com/talks/cathy_o_neil_the_era_of_blind_faith_in_big_data_must_end#t-10269

[4] Ecosia, “Lets plant some trees”, [30, May, 2020], https://www.ecosia.org/

[5] Stephen Shankland, “Google claims Bing copies its search results”, [30, May, 2020], https://www.cnet.com/news/google-brings-microsofts-bing-search-bling-to-chrome/

[1] Safiya Umoja Noble: "Algorithms of Oppression:"