We are in the middle of a shift, from an age where Google and others enabled us to quickly search online for things we wanted to know more about, to an age where we are increasingly able to discover the most relevant, delightful and useful information–even when we aren’t sure how to search for it. This shift is in large part a shift in costs: from the sender to the consumer. Senders used to pay to reach us. Now they can do so instantaneously and virtually for free, so the costs have shifted to us, the receivers, creating more demand for tools that help us find signal in the noise of the Internet.
It may seem like a subtle shift, but it involves a different set of rules; a new physics, if you will.
The age of search required new and sophisticated ways to tell computers what it was we were looking for, and to be served up a huge range of possibly relevant, possibly irrelevant, content. Now search is ubiquitous.
But we are now overwhelmed with choices of content, and are left to sift and filter through the many possibilities to find the information that serves our needs. This process of sifting and filtering is the search for relevance; and we don’t always know what it is we’re looking for when we’re searching. We are looking to discover something–about the world, about ourselves.
Whereas algorithms ruled in the age of search, Weigend says the new age of discovery requires a different set of rules. Those rules, he argues, can be formulated when the system (be that Google, content providers, or our friends on Facebook) knows more about us. The age of discovery, he says requires that those hoping to facilitate the search for relevance find powerful ways to convince people to share personal data that then allows us to serve up more relevant content.
So we must now understand what compels people to share personal data. Weigend says it’s the desire to spread memes and genes.
I believe that, whereas algorithms ruled in the age of search, human values such as trust, empathy and credibility will rule in this new age of discovery.
We must build trust so people feel comfortable sharing personal data with us; be credible so that when we use that personal data people see that we’re doing so towards a valuable end; and show empathy by serving people’s deeply held needs, creating deeper engagement that leads to deep focus and attention.
And it’s in that last measure, the degree to which people reward us with their attention, that we’ll understand whether or not we’ve succeeded.