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   RE: [xml-dev] Semantic web?

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 [Andrew said] 
Perhaps, in a broader context, an even more important aspect is the notion of eXtreme Monitoring Language!

The article from TBL et al in Scientific American started with an example where medical data which, in Europe at least, would be seen as confidential information was passed around with what at least some would view as gay abandon.

If machine processing of semantics is implemented we, as individuals, are highly likely to lose control of the privacy of our personal information if we cannot know or influence directly which parts of personal information (and its meaning) is accessible to "Big Brother".  
[Danny says]
The bad news is that this is the state of affairs we see now - our personal information is to a large extent out of our control. There's a slight difference in the approach to such information in the cultures on either side of the Atlantic (and Pacific), on how far we trust private and/or public organisations with the data, but with the current "war on terror", whatever restraint there was has gone as far as governments are concerned. The existing web is crawling with spam merchants, all too ready to lift and abuse personal information. 
Some of the current approaches to managing sensitive personal information on the net (e.g. MS Passport & Palladium) are also worrying, in that they are also driven by purely commercial interests. You mention the medical data issue - the kind of outsourcing of data processing that goes on in the uk National Health Service, where (often questionable) financial and political concerns are primary isn't exactly confidence-building either.
The good news is that consideration of things such as security policies are effectively written into the "semweb constitution", or to be more precise woven into the principles of the W3C's Semantic Web initiative, and the premises on which their working groups are operating. I'm not entirely optimistic, but I certainly feel the Semantic Web, through improving communication structures and empowering the end user in general at least offers the opportunity for greater personal control of confidential information. It's got to be one of the most aesthetically displeasing words, but perhaps 'democratization' would sum this up.
 [Andrew said]
Another aspect of the Sem-Web which deserves more attention is the likely distortion of focus on to meanings which are culturally narrow and which are more readily definable. The history of science is littered with "realities" which have been determined more by what we can measure than what is necessarily important.  
[Danny says]
Indeed. Though again localization is in the "semweb constitution", this is relatively unexplored territory as far as the web is concerned, and I personally think this could well be a problem for civilization (grandiose, I?) or at least a  huge can of worms when it comes to implementation. 
 [Andrew said] 
I think there is a real possiblity that the Sem-Web will focus more on what we can *define* rather than what is important. Many of the most important aspects of life are intriguingly intangible and are likely to be resistant to a culturally narrow standardization. Therefore there is a prospect of a distortion of meaning (and therefore potentially of thinking) perhaps unparalleled in the history of Mankind.  
[Danny says]
Heh, well yes, I couldn't agree more. Though here I would once again point to the current situation, where incredible cultural distortion is already happening :  prior to a couple of weeks ago, when did we last see Bali represented on television as anything other than a playground for Westerners? The current web already offers quite a bit more access to information than mass media spoon-feeding, and again I'm cautiously optimistic that the Semantic Web will improve matters here too.
[Andrew said] 
There are issues involved which we might do well to consider which require us to lift our eyes (or nose) from the silicon grindstone. :) 
Alas, it's back to the carborundum ;-)


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