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Semantic Debate and Reasoning Web Application

From: Chris Spencer <chrisspen@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 18 Mar 2009 13:29:34 -0400
Message-ID: <beb7688e0903181029m55b9621dp917c42282978bae6@mail.gmail.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

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 expected.

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 opinions.
Received on Thursday, 19 March 2009 01:34:33 UTC

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