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The Semantic Web Might Work This Way Too! [humor, sort of]

From: Frank Manola <fmanola@acm.org>
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 2004 09:55:10 -0500
Message-ID: <41937D4E.7030104@acm.org>
To: www-rdf-interest@w3.org

"The entertainment system was belting out the Beatles’ "We Can Work It 
Out" when the phone rang. When Pete answered, his phone turned the sound 
down by sending a message to all the *local* devices that had a *volume 
control*. Unfortunately, this also included the phone's volume control, 
the manufacturer not having been sufficiently precise in specifying its 
rules, so Pete thought there wasn't anyone on the line.  After this 
performance was repeated several times, Pete finally figured out what 
was going on, and adjusted the phone volume control manually. "Why can't 
they tighten up those rules?," he muttered to himself. His sister, Lucy, 
was on the line from the doctor’s office: "Mom needs to see a specialist 
and then has to have a series of physical therapy sessions. Biweekly or 
something. I’m going to have my agent set up the appointments." Pete 
immediately agreed to share the chauffeuring. At the doctor’s office, 
Lucy instructed her Semantic Web agent through her handheld Web browser. 
The agent promptly tried to retrieve information about Mom’s *prescribed 
treatment* from the doctor’s agent, but was placed on hold several 
times.  When the agent finally got through, it reported that the 
doctor's agent had recorded the wrong treatment, having misread the 
doctor's handwriting. After getting that straightened out with the 
doctor's secretary (and making arrangements to have an unnecessary lower 
body cast removed from Mom), Lucy reinstructed her agent, which looked 
up several lists of *providers*, and checked for the ones *in-plan* for 
Mom’s insurance within a *20-mile radius* of her *home* and with a 
*rating* of *excellent* or *very good* on trusted rating services. It 
then began trying to find a match between available *appointment times* 
(supplied by the agents of individual providers through their Web sites) 
and Pete’s and Lucy’s busy schedules. (The emphasized keywords indicate 
terms whose semantics, or meaning, were defined for the agent through 
the Semantic Web.) In a few minutes the agent presented them with a 
plan. Pete didn’t like it—-University Hospital was all the way across 
town from Mom’s place, and he’d be driving back in the middle of rush 
hour. Besides, the list of *providers* was out of date, because the 
insurance company hadn't updated its Web site in over a year. 
"*S__t*!," he exclaimed.  Plowing ahead anyway, he set his own agent to 
redo the search with stricter preferences about *location* and *time*. 
Before it could begin this task, however, the agent had to pause for 3 
hours to download and install the latest security patches for Microsoft 
Agent.  After completing this process, and installing upgrades to 
several other components to fix compatibility problems, Pete's agent 
began the search. Lucy’s agent, having *complete trust* in Pete’s agent 
in the context of the present task, tried to automatically assist by 
supplying access certificates and shortcuts to the data it had already 
sorted through.  However, due to the new security patches, Pete's agent 
no longer trusted Lucy's agent, and rejected all this information. 
After an hour spent resolving that, the new plan was presented: a much 
closer clinic and earlier times—-but there were two warning notes. 
First, Pete would have to reschedule a couple of his *less important* 
appointments. He checked what they were—-not a problem. The other was 
something about the insurance company’s list failing to include this 
provider under *physical therapists*: "Service type and insurance plan 
status securely verified by other means," the agent reassured him. 
"(Details?)" Lucy registered her assent at about the same moment Pete 
was muttering, "Spare me the details," and it was all set. (Of course, 
Pete couldn’t resist the details, and later during a break had his agent 
explain how it had found that provider even though it wasn’t on the 
proper list. Unfortunately, the details showed that the reason the 
*provider* wasn't on the proper list was that the *provider* was a 
promoter of unusual sporting events, and the agent had scheduled Mom for 
entry in a biweekly extreme kickboxing tournament, all this due to 
overly-general ontology definitions for *provider* and *physical 
therapy*.  The agent had also debited Pete's debit card for the $500 
entry fee.  "*Rats*!," he exclaimed.  "Why don't they tighten up those 
ontologies," he muttered to himself).  At the end of a long day, Pete 
came home to find that his voice-activated, pro-active agent, not being 
able to distinguish speech acts very well, had had two truck-loads of 
*horse manure* delivered to his front yard (the agent having determined 
through the Semantic Web that *s__t* and *horse manure* could be 
considered equivalent terms in the context of the present task), and a 
container of *rats* delivered to his back door.  "What a *goatf__k*!," 
he screamed, then "No, no, I didn't mean it!," as his agent 
simultaneously began looking up sources of goats, and delivering 
warnings on the dangers of sexually-transmitted diseases. Unfortunately, 
due to the aforementioned problem with speech acts..."

[With grateful acknowledgements to "The Semantic Web", Scientific 
American, May 2001, Tim Berners-Lee, James Hendler and Ora Lassila]
Received on Thursday, 11 November 2004 14:50:25 UTC

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