Google has decided to create the largest store of knowledge in human history and it is going to create it without using human brainpower.
Google's Knowledge Vault is a massive database of facts, built up by an algorithm that autonomously trawls the web and transforms data into useable, bite-sized pieces of information.
The predecessor of Knowlege Vault, known as Knowledge Graph, used crowdsourcing techniques but Google realised that humans could only take the project so far; computers could drastically speed up the process.
To date the Knowledge Vault contains over 1.6 billion facts. This huge fact reservoir will be the basis of future search engines. Google is currently racing Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and IBM, who are all attempting to build the same kind of database.
The Knowledge Vault will be the foundation for smartphone and robot intelligence. Siri is going to get a lot better at interpreting what you mean when you ask her questions in the future.
The algorithm is indiscriminate and will build information equally on places, people, history, science and popular culture. This has raised some privacy concerns as the program can access "backstage" information such as data hidden behind websites like Amazon, YouTube and Google+.
In the future, virtual assistants will be able to use the database to make decisions about what does and does not matter to us. Our computers will get better at finding the information we are looking for and anticipating our needs.
The Knowledge Vault is also going to be able to find correlations that humans would miss by sifting through enormous amounts of information. This could provide the means for massive medical breakthroughs, discovery of trends in human history and the prediction of the future.
IBM's Watson is already playing a role in cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York.
Once the Knowledge Vault can interpret objects on sight, it will become integral to real-time information generation. One day you might be able to walk around, point your phone at an object, ask a question about it and recieve an intelligent response.
At the Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining in New York on 25 August Kevin Murphy and his team will present a paper on the Knowledge Vault.