27 Nov 2003 chalst   » (Master)

AI and the semantic web
There's an interesting discussion going on in various places about the goals of research on universal metadata and the semantic web, turning on the questions: is it all too ambitious? Is it stupid? First, some references:
  1. Clay Shirky says that the semantic web is based on a lie, namely you can do interesting things with syllogisms;
  2. Paul Ford writes a wonderful counterargument to Shirky, saying he attacks a straw man, and that it is all about doing the same kind of thing that librarians do with bibliographic data;
  3. Mark Liberman tells a nice story of an NSF grant proposal; ontologies and arguments.
  4. Poor but happy Peter Van Dijck has a nice summary of the key ideas at work in the semantic web discussion.
  5. And now, Mark Liberman reports on a dreadful conspiracy by the AI gnomes of Zurich. Choice quote:
    As for the content, I don't think anyone (in this discussion) will admit to being opposed to vision. The thing is, some visions turn out to be the telephone or the automobile or the internet, while others turn out to be the Picturephone, the Personal Zeppelin[TM] or perhaps the Philosophical Language of John Wilkins. This is an argument for pluralism but against credulousness.
A point about the vision thing: it really isn't clear that in the long term we need web standards. Why can't we have a standards-free commons of mob software quick-hackers with nice, practical AI agents figuring out what is meant by all of the ad-hoc order that they find? To take this further: we need html and http; we have XML, XHTML, CSS, RDF, RSS, and that's nice, but do we really need them? It seems to me the only thing that matters with these semantic web issues is the forseeable future, and we can't forsee very far.

There's some consequences that follow from this, but I have to work, so it will have to wait.

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