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Bing Eliminates Independent Thought With New Technology

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The term “groupthink” was coined by social psychologist Irving Janis in1972 to describe the process of faulty decision-making that occurs when group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment.” It’s generally not a positive term, and is often the explanation behind less-than-stellar reactions of groups in concerning social situations. However, Bing, the decision engine from Microsoft Corp., has a different perspective on group decision-making. So much in fact, that it this week announced new functionality that “optimizes” Bing search engine results based on the preferences of a user’s Facebook friends.

According to the official press statement released by Microsoft, the move will enhance user experience, by combining factual search results “with the opinions of trusted friends, and with the collective wisdom of the Web, resulting in smarter, faster decisions.” The technology was developed based on findings from an online survey conducted by Bing and Impulse Research. In it, 90% of respondents indicated that they seek advice from family and friends before making decisions. Fueled by that information, Bing sought to speed up the decision-making process by allowing searchers to see results that have already gotten the “like” from their peers.

In the press statement, Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president at Bing, explains that “the best decisions are not just fueled by facts, they require the opinions and emotions of your friends.” To ensure that no decision be made independently, the technology also includes shared shopping lists which allows users to build, share and discuss with friends, “getting them to weigh in on purchases — before buying.”

Clearly, the folks at Bing feel the new technology has solved a real problem by marrying fact-based decision making with the “friend” stamp of approval in one fell swoop. Bing explains that its technology has increased the value and personal relevance of search results. By moving information that your friends have already “liked” higher in page rankings, you no longer need to sort through several pages of search results, or miss potentially interesting results. What Bing doesn’t address is how the technology separates the opinions of the friends whose opinions you do value, from the Facebook “friends,” but whose thoughts you may not care to know.

Bing’s new technology also features an expanded Facebook profile search option that provides users “a more in-depth bio snapshot, such as location, education and employment details, to help them find the person they're looking for more quickly.” The impact of the technology when the person who's seeking information is anything but a friend remains to be seen.
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