So much of life involves answering a question, usually presented in an either/or situation.

You can choose the red pill or blue pill, not both. And no variants of purple, pink or aqua pills.

Only red or blue.

But as I recently discovered while searching for creepy images of a woman on her own walking along a river on a foggy night, it’s not the answer that counts, but the question.

If you don’t ask the right question you can’t get the right answer.

It’s not normally such a dilemma.

Once upon a time, the only answer option was to consult a library catalogue for books that sounded about right, then consult the book indexes to see if the answers were in there. And if they were, check the book out, and if they weren’t, keep looking.

It wasn’t hard to look like you knew what you were doing carrying books all about the place. Bit depressing when your inter-library loans turned out to not be helpful…

Or question large books containing the annual index of every article published by a particular magazine. Those were the days.

And then the indexes moved to compact discs and Boolean searches.

Boolean logic was invented by George Boole, a professor of Mathematics at Queen’s College Cork (now University College Cork) in Ireland. He introduced it in his book An Investigation of the Laws of Thought on Which are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities in 1854.

At the time, Boolean serarch seemed complicated, but allowed you to start broad and narrow with “and”, “or”, and “not”. Match the cases. Add asterisks to search everything starting with the first letters. Search for sets of words.

Each of the filters would add and delete answers before you even saw them.

It’s possible search engines still do that behind the scenes, but it seems harder to find the answers I’m looking for.

Or maybe it’s that the proliferation of websites there are more answers I’m not looking for.

Though I’m more likely to be looking for subjective answers than objective answers. Comes with the industry.

In the end I chose and image of a woman in a city street looking behind her. It may or may not be a better image. It’s just not what I went looking for.

So perhaps starting with an answer and trying to find the question might work out better.


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