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...