Google's PageRank Works Like Our Brains

from the what's-your-brainrank? dept

We've joked in the past about how Google effectively acts as a a secondary or "backup" brain for many people. However, perhaps it wasn't so much of a joke. New research on how human memory and recall works suggests that the process is quite similar to Google's PageRank in determining what things are more important and should be recalled first. Basically, Google's PageRank looks at "popularity," not just in terms of how many links a site gets, but also in terms of how popular those links are. Thus, if you get linked from a more popular site, that's more valuable than getting linked by a bunch of non-popular sites. It turns out that the brain does something similar in linking concepts, judging not just the popularity, but the popularity of the concepts linked to the concepts. In fact, using Google's PageRank turned out to be a better predictor of how a brain would prioritize words than more commonly known methods.

This could be an interesting finding for the artificial intelligence community. After all, many in the AI community have been trying to figure out how to make computers act more like human brains for years, and various brute force methods haven't worked all that well. Obviously, the AI world has worked on various neural net research for quite some time, but it's nice to see at least some confirmation from the psychology side concerning a way to match up brains and algorithms. A couple years ago, we noted that intelligence was often correlated to people who knew what to forget rather than trying to remember everything. What that really shows is that good brains are better at prioritizing and ranking the importance of something -- and that's exactly what PageRank is intended to do. So, now, we just need Larry Page to get back from his honeymoon and get to work on BrainRank. Or would that be PageBrain? Of course, it's also worth noting that with the rise of search engine spamming, rumor has it that Google doesn't use PageRank that much any more. Perhaps that just means that our brains are vulnerable to concept spamming as well...


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2007 @ 8:27am

    Google suing PageRank??

    "Google doesn't sue PageRank that much any more."

    Hate to be picky but shouldn't that be "use"???

     

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  2.  
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    Jaron, Dec 11th, 2007 @ 9:10am

    Re: Google suing PageRank??

    Yeah, I'm picky about that stuff to. It's a pretty funny typo too since google doesn't really sue anyone.

     

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  3.  
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    Mike (profile), Dec 11th, 2007 @ 9:23am

    Re: Google suing PageRank??

    Heh. Oops. Yeah. Fixed now.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2007 @ 9:40am

    So advertisers that use sex or music or anything that isn't really related to their product are just like the link-farmers. How long before they start suing people for setting their BrainRank to zero?

     

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  5.  
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    Oldster, Dec 11th, 2007 @ 9:43am

    "Google doesn't use PageRank that much any more."

    Um. They don't use it, they create it. PageRank is where/how a site is ranked versus other pages displayed in search results.

     

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  6.  
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    DrScum, Dec 11th, 2007 @ 9:43am

    spammers

    "Perhaps that just means that our brains are vulnerable to concept spamming as well..."

    Enter the world of advertising...

     

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  7.  
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    Boris Jacobsen, Dec 11th, 2007 @ 5:39pm

    Interesting....

    "So advertisers that use sex or music or anything that isn't really related to their product are just like the link-farmers"


    So by this reckoning, it seems the advertisers don't just want us to think of sex when we think of their product, they want us to think of their product every time we think of sex! So that's why I've developed a fetish for rubber washing-up gloves!

     

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  8.  
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    Ben Frank, Dec 12th, 2007 @ 6:55am

    Well

    I guess people are not as dumb as an algorithm with such calculation restrictions to it. Thanks for the idiotic comparison though.

    Whatever outsider scientists made the suggestion.

     

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  9.  
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    B-Ad, Dec 12th, 2007 @ 8:57am

    seems to follow

    A program designed by humans to process and recall data processes and recalls data in the same manner as a human? Go figure.

    I think Celebrity Gossip, Fashion, reality television and all of the things we are told are important but aren't would be the equivalent of Brain Spam. Although, I think the human mind is vastly less competent at filtering the wheat from the chaf, and thusly we have E!, American Idol, Us Weekly, &c.

     

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  10.  
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    Steve Flinn, Dec 12th, 2007 @ 10:00am

    Re: seems to follow

    PageRank is actually a subset of more generalized network "influence" algorithms. For example, PageRank only looks to see if there are links or not between nodes. A more generalized approach is where links are by degree, with 0 and 1 being the extremes. This is actually a better model for the way the brain works, which has analog connections between neurons. You can see the results of applying this more generalized approach with regard to personalized recommendations at our business thought leadership site, www.manyworlds.com.

     

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  11.  
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    Charlie, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 9:37am

    The use of a PageRank-like algorithm would explain some behaviors of the human brain. The most popular ideas or concepts require less processing time to recall, and the less popular take more. Likewise, the most popular pages show up first in a Google search, and you have to dig down deeper to find the less popular. The PageRank algorithm constantly updates; as new pages are indexed, the scores of the pages they link to are refreshed, just as the neural connections between frequently access bits of memory are strengthened in the human mind. It makes a lot of sense to me. The amount of information collected by a brain (of any type) is vast, and requires some efficient method of determining what's important and what's not.

    Trackback

    (better late than never I suppose)

     

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  12.  
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    Alan, Aug 6th, 2008 @ 4:38am

    Paradox

    Very interesting. I am a little concerned though, if page rank is following the same patterns as the brain, and humans are relying more and more on google, are we all headed for recursive doom?

     

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  13.  
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    Online radio, May 12th, 2009 @ 10:37am

    That's true, since Pagerank classifieds results by the number of incoming links and this is the exact way which the brain classifies the information. Studies had shown that people remember somethings better than others because we have more associations made with the first thing than to the second one. In the peoples brain, associations stands for links in the pagerank case.

     

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