I read a very interesting article entitled "Should Google always tell the truth?" which set me to thinking. If you ask a search engine to tell you how to get from point A to point B, that's a fairly straightforward query; you've got shortest and fastest for example. However, if your search engine knows that you like a particular restaurant chain, should it also give you a third option? Or a fourth if it knows you like a particular comic shop and so on. In other words, should it do exactly what you have asked for, or should it consider what might be in your best interests? Now, let's get a bit more convoluted - what if Google is paid by an advertiser, and there are two routes from A to B which take the same amount of time, but one route passes the advertisers business? What should it do then, and are you even going to know the difference? This is slightly different than the filter bubble concept, since the engine would be making specific choices for you, based not just on what you have clicked on, but what it knows about you.
So, if you are gluten intolerant, and you ask for a cake recipe, should the engine just spout out cake recipes, or should it actually choose ones that are appropriate for you. Of course, you could always filter the search for yourself, but engines are getting less keen on you actually thinking - they want to do it for you. Now, is the search engine actually lying, taking your interests as its own and trying to do a better job, or should it do exactly what is asked of it, irrespective?
Or as we've seen recently, if you ask Google what happened to the dinosaurs, it wants to return a religious based answer, rather than a scientific one. Should it always go for the scientific one, or the religious one, or should it act in your interests by giving you the answer it thinks you want. So if you get the answer you think you want, what happens when you say 'should I vaccinate my child?' or 'how can I make an explosive device to kill as many people as possible?'
Should the engine simply act as an idiot savant, aka expert, or should it be as neutral as possible? Should it ignore the wants and wishes of the searcher if it knows what they are (and if it doesn't know, it shortly will, have no worry on that score) and how should it balance that out by considering the needs of the majority.
A search for 'Martin Luther King' brings me back a particular .org site which is a racist site, but I only find that out when I go there. Google doesn't care of course, it's just giving me what I have asked for, but if I rephrase my query and ask for racist Martin Luther King sites, I don't get that particular .org site coming up in my results.
Of course, the best thing to do - ask a librarian! :)