As search engines are radically reinvented, computers and people are becoming partners in exploration.
Artificially intelligent systems are already creating and distilling robust models of human knowledge, but they’ll still be constrained by the datasets that feed into them. So there will be some degree of luck involved if, for instance, a machine happens upon an ancient document that reveals the whereabouts of more machines like the Antikythera Mechanism, or determines who built the one found on the Mediterranean seafloor so many decades ago. At the same time, the evolution of information systems makes remarkable discoveries seem more possible now than ever before. “All I can say is there are an awful lot of manuscripts that have never been read, let alone translated,” Marchant told me. “I think it really is a reminder of how much we don’t know.”