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Re: NPR, Godel, Semantic Web

At 09:32 AM 07/05/01 -0400, Simon St.Laurent wrote:
>I was driving home from the hardware store yesterday when I heard a report 
>on NPR about Godel's Incompleteness Theorem. It concluded with a discussion 
>of the Semantic Web, with the interviewee making claims that the Semantic 
>Web would run into sizable issues with Incompleteness.

To one who remembers what understanding the Goedel proof used to
feel like, this sounds deeply suspect.  In the same way, the 
mathematically illiterate often like to claim that this or that 
ordinary visible effect is the result of the uncertainty 
principle - or worse, that there's a deep parallel between 
Goedel/uncertainty and some piece of politicosociomythotrophic
theory.   Even Hofstadter skated close to the edge, but was
entertaining enough to get away with it.

Goedel shows that in a formal system enough rich enough to build 
conventional mathematical logic on [most people have no idea 
what real mathematical logic looks or smells like], the set of 
true assertions is larger than the set of provable ones.  Given 
the *extreme* mathematical contortions he had to go through in 
establishing this, I'd be surprised if this were notable among 
the obstacles facing the construction of the semantic web. -T