Re: Semantic Layers (Was Interpretation of RDF reification)

Adrian and Azamat,

First a comment on Adrian's point:

AW> ... languages and GUIs for people who use an application
 > are such that those people cannot *change* the application,
 > and cannot *write* new applications themselves.

That's not what I assumed or implied.  The issue is much
more complex than that, and the word "application" is
rather old fashioned.  See the example of Sonetto, which
I sent in a previous note to this list,
Sonetto uses conceptual graphs under the covers, but the
managers can update and modify the ontology and business rules
without knowing anything about the underlying technology.

AA> Indeed, the matter looks serious, both from the public and
 > scientific sides, beside the technical issues which Adrian
 > tries to point out for a long while. The first issue is
 > concerned with getting huge public funds, promising a sort
 > of magic technology as the Knowledge Society intellectual
 > technologies, without making foundational ontological
 > groundwork, like as SUO or ONTAC or USECS....

The major flaw in the SemWeb was to plunge into standards
without any preliminary experience on what kinds of things to
standardize.  HTML, for example, was based on experience with
GML and SGML from 1969.  Unicode was also based on decades of
experience with various codes, and URLs were based on decades
of experience with Unix-like file systems extended to Arpanet
and the Internet.

But RDF was developed by Tim Bray, an XML expert, working with
Guha, a former associate director of Cyc, which was based on the
vastly more complex Cycl language, of which triples were the
tiniest of tiny subsets.  The result was an alpha-level prototype,
which Tim said was a mistake.  Yet that mistake is now fossilized
as the foundation for everything else.

In my career at IBM, I saw some outstanding work and some total
disasters.  One of the worst multi billion-dollar disasters was
FS (IBM's Future System of the 1970s).  I am now in the process
of scanning and posting some documentation about it.  See

FS was chartered in 1971, and many of us could see right at the
beginning that it was going to be a disaster, but management would
not listen until (a) multi billions of dollars were spent on it,
(b) the opportunity to do something much more significant was lost,
(c) the lingering stench of FS made IBM management reluctant to do
anything innovative for many years thereafter because it might turn
into another FS, and (d) the world outside of IBM moved on in ways
that caused IBM to lose its leadership in computer technology.

What bothers me about the SemWeb is that I see a massive movement
that has all the signs of another FS-like disaster.

AA> In order to lay down the knowledge infrastructures of the upcoming
 > Information Society the EU’s Research Council and the European
 > Parliament allocated 3.8 billion Euro for Knowledge Technologies
 > within the 6th European Union Framework Programme (FP6) for Research
 > and Technological Development, with a total budget of 17.5 billion
 > Euro. Within the FP6 Programme, all the web-based knowledge technology
 > projects are largely concerned with ontology research, design,
 > learning, and management....

If there is that much money going around, I would very *strongly* urge
them to distribute it among a thousand *independent* projects with 3.8
million each -- or perhaps a hundred projects with 38 million each.

I stress the word *independent* because it's essential *not* to put all
the eggs in one basket.  Perhaps two or three of the projects might be
based on SemWeb technologies, but the other 97 (or 997) should *not*
be tied to the SemWeb (although it would be OK to have import/export
facilities to and from RDF and OWL -- however, the foundations should
definitely be kept independent of any SemWeb technologies).

The worst thing that happened to FS was that everything was tied
to a single very seriously flawed base.  If IBM had funded three or
four independent projects, one or two might have turned out to be
outstanding.  But the manager at the top deliberately killed all
competition.  When FS collapsed, IBM very quickly dusted off the
older System/370 Model 168, mapped it into the circuit technology
intended for FS, and shipped it to customers as the IBM 3033.  But
it was not as good as the Amdahl machine (which was designed by
Gene Amdahl, who quit IBM when his project had been killed to make
way for FS).

I am sure that some major new development will leapfrog the SemWeb
during the next five to ten years.  There is a very slight chance
that the new development might be based on current SemWeb projects,
but I very seriously doubt that.  I would strongly urge any funding
agency to support multiple *independent* projects -- not just one
gigantic coordinated effort like FS.


Received on Tuesday, 28 March 2006 00:16:15 UTC