A simple fun example of how a computer reads intent wrong

I read an article about India and wanted to know how much money “2 lakh” is in Euro. The search engine responded as follows:

Search result on Google for “2 lakh in euro”

I was expecting Indian Rupee to Euro and not US Dollar to Euro.

What went wrong? It turns out that “lakh” is a counting word (hundred thousand) and not a currency. So the search engine only read “tell me 200000 somethings in Euro”. It correctly inferred that somethings might be a currency, but weirdly used US Dollar rather than Indian Rupee (talk about how Western dominance permeates all software). Even though the counting word is distinctively Indian, the search engine did not infer that the currency then perhaps should be the currency of India.

To a human, this would be have been obvious.

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  1. Grismar Avatar

    I gave it a try, but through an Indian proxy, it picks Indian Rupees, just like it picks AUD for me (from Brisbane). I would assume you either use Google while logged in to it and it somehow infers your regular preference for US dollars from that, or you actually directly accessed it through a US proxy / server? It makes sense to me than an Indian in the US would be more interested in 2 lakh US dollar? (I do have Indian friends in Australia who sometimes use their counting system among each other at work, even when speaking English)

    1. Dirk Riehle Avatar

      I suspect so too. My IP address would have been in Germany, but my browser/Google was set to US English. Still, not entirely logical: A human would have given Indian Rupee a stronger binding than context settings when confronted with “lakh” I think.

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