The search engine is like what the steam engine was to the industrial revolution.
In the early years of the industrial revolution (1700's) the waterwheel and then the steam engine powered machinery that was beginning to replace manual labour. This change lead eventualy to Fords' production line, mass production and economies of scale.
A buisiness model like Fords' production line, in the context of the Information Technology Revolution(ITR), hasn't been invented yet; or has it?
The production line was the central innovation that changed the industrial revolution from a slowly developing reniasance of knowledge to an extrapolating technological juggernaut.
The production line began a doubling of human knowledge, the rate of which is quickening exponentially - this means that at one point, knowledge will double before it doubles again; a singularity, a sea-change in human history, Web 3.0 . Here's how Ray Kurzweil one of the leading edge thinkers in this area puts it: "...we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century -- it will be more like 20,000 years of progress...". His estimate may well be under the mark...
An information sythesizer, a commons, a machine that intigrates humans and computers - has been developed - that can be seen as the first machine in a future ITR production line.
"A Noosphere-sythesizer" (to borrow Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadskys' notion of Gaia; noos Gk.-mind- through the Fr. nous us, we; plus sphere or globe), this IT Machine consists of large communities harnessing the collective intelligence of the whole to produce Intelligent-solutions to complex problems. A Self organizing information sharing Tool; a combination of 'wikis' and the 'blogs'; create individual human cognition quickly from vast data-sets one human could not organise in a life-time.
A synthesis of many brains working collectivly on the internet with an array of search tools in a commons, creates this Noosphere-sythesizer. Knowledge is offered, edited, tested, and peer reviewed - in other words the data-set is rationalized, based on the understanding or the collective vision of the group. A solution derived through this virtual think-tank is immediatly recognized by the collective as true, or requiring a tweek here and there - in other words it's self regulating.
With study and in the very near future (2008) the proper inputs of info, or raw materials will be defined that produce desired out-puts - in essence a human/cyber machine!
Huston, Neuromancer has landed!
N.B. I think I've coined "Noosphere-sythesizer" (let me know if I'm wrong), also I like Us-sphere or We-sphere or Cybersphere-sythesizer too (better names out there? Comments is always on).