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Semantic Debate and Reasoning Web Application

From: Cerin <chrisspen@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 18 Mar 2009 07:56:35 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <22580463.post@talk.nabble.com>
To: semantic-web@w3.org

I'm at the brainstorming stage of a semantic application, and I'd like to
get some feedback. I'd like to create a web application that would provide a
structured debating format that would incorporate semantic rules and logic
entered by users. The basic idea is that a user would enter an assertion,
evidence, and definitions, and other users would vote on the accuracy of
these elements, or extend them with their own arguments. The system would
also make an attempt to validate logical arguments, and show where a user's
line of reasoning is incomplete, flawed, or contradictory, and would need
correction or clarification.

To use a controversial political example, a user might enter the assertion
"The war in Iraq is a mistake." and then enter the supporting argument
"because, it costs billions with no tangible benefit to the US". The user
might optionally enter definitions and examples for "tangible benefit" for
clarification. Another user might disagree and enter a counter argument,
claiming "The Iraqi government shares security intelligence" and that
"Security intelligence is a tangible benefit". An arbitrary number of "for"
and "against" arguments could be added, and the results accumulated in the
parent assertion.

The goal isn't to simply find the consensus opinion on an issue. A basic
poll can do that. Instead, I'm interesting in finding the clearest most
unambiguous and quantifiable line of reasoning supporting an opinion,
especially when a subject has conflicting opinions. I used the above example
since it has passionate arguments on either side. In these cases, I'm
curious to see which position can be quantifiably reduced to the clearest
line of reasoning, instead of the knee-jerk oversimplified diatribes we
typically see in the main stream media. Another goal would be to filter out
misinformation and mischaracterization, using a combination of user votes
and automated logic validation.

Of course, I realize this is no simple task. I have a little background in
machine learning, so I can imagine how impossibly complicated implementing
this system could become. I also realize that not everyone's opinion is
based on logic, and that a certain amount of "unexplainable bias" is to be

However, I'm not too familiar with how much this subject overlaps with the
semantic web topic, so my basic questions are:

1. What's the prior art and existing technology?
Yes, I've Googled, but since I'm unsure what exact topic this falls under, I
don't think I'm getting a comprehensive picture. As far as I can tell,
there's nothing that exactly attempts what I'm suggesting. The closet I've
found are the various automated logic parsers (e.g. for OWL and RDF), which
don't seem to support context, probability, or any kind of accumulation of
discrete examples into higher-level statements, which I'd expect this
project would require (but please correct me if I'm wrong).

2. Do these goals seem obtainable?
Does my idea seem reasonable, insane, far-fetched, etc? Clearly, I've
glossed over the technical details, partially for brevity, and partially
because I'm not completely sure how I'd implement it. I'd expect the initial
system to be limited in the terminology it would support. I doubt you'd be
able to enter arguments in natural language. Instead, to help simplify the
initial implementation, the user would have to enter a simplified grammar
tree. To use the above example, the assertion might be entered in indented
form like:

The war in Iraq
a mistake
        no tangible benefit
            the US

If such a system were created, I'd imagine it being Wikipedia-like, in that
there would be no clear profit motive behind it, so it would have to be
open-source and community driven.

I appreciate any thoughts.


P.S. Sorry if the above example in any way offends. I'm usually apolitically
and generally go out of my way not to advertise my personal political
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Received on Thursday, 19 March 2009 01:24:35 UTC

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