The Guardian has a great article about Wolfram Alpha and Stephen Wolfram, the genius behind it. Turns out, his dream was never to kill Google (back in '93, Sergey Brin worked for Wolfram!) but rather try to create the science fiction people once dreamt of (think HAL).
And after a rocky start, Wolfram Alpha has started to find its way. People searching sorta "get" it now, asking more specific questions and not expecting Google-like results, and the computer answering also sorta "gets" people, being able to narrow down what is computable information in the questions people ask. Wolfram Alpha's system needs to continue to improve to be more than an insanely powerful calculator but Wolfram knows that even if it eventually reaches his lofty dreams, it won't replace us:
"There was a time when we had to cut feathers to make our own pens. Gradually more levels of civilisation and automation happen, and this is another such layer," he says. "What should happen is that you can build on to what is now automated and do the next level of stuff, where you need to add the human touch."
Read the whole article at the Guardian. [Guardian]