Meet the mind-reading search engine version of Autocorrect

Search engines create the illusion that they can read our minds.

Their algorithms have been created to compare the words we type to popular terms, and to suggest alternatives.

Did you mean …? they often ask.

Lately, those search engines have gone beyond asking. For instance, if you type “Wapakneta,” Google will kindly tell you that it is providing results for “Wapakoneta” (the town in Ohio) and that if you really want to search for that “Wapa-whatever,” you still can. No asking. It just “assumes.”

That often works. And yet, search engines sometimes provide results so mind-boggling that they challenge your sanity, much as  Autocorrect does on a smartphone.

That happened to me last week on BBC’s site. I was looking for the BBC News Styleguide, which the organization used to provide on the site.

When the link I had bookmarked turned up dead, I searched for “BBC styleguide.”

In a glorious display of irrelevancy, the search engine on the site asked whether I really meant “BBC Homepage” instead of “styleguide.”

Or perhaps I was really after “BBC iPlayer.” Or “BBC Two.” Or perhaps “BBC One.”

I don’t usually type “One” when I mean “styleguide,” but it’s good to know that search engines are looking out for me just in case.

Just for kicks, I typed in “Wapakneta” on the BBC site, and the search engine kindly offered such results as “Adam Walton,” “No Way Out” and “War Time Farm.”

Wapakoneta, by the way, is the hometown of Neil Armstrong, the late astronaut. As far as I know, it has no connection to Adam Walton, who, I now know, is the host of a BBC radio show and has no connection to the BBC News Styleguide.

BBC no longer has the guide on its website, but someone else now provides a version.

So in a roundabout way, I found what I was after, along with several things I didn’t need but now know. One of those is that there’s another Adam Walton, a freelance bassist who performs on the wonderful version of “Cissy Strut” below.

I’d suggest listening to it while you search — and scratch your head. 

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