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   Re: [xml-dev] XML/RDF

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11/8/2002 5:19:04 PM, Paul Prescod <paul@prescod.net> wrote:

>Second, I didn't ask you whether the Semantic Web was overhyped, but 
>rather how you defined it. If we choose not to use technologies that are 
>overhyped then we do had better shut this mailing list down.

No disputing that!

>Do you have any reason to dispute (or fear) the definition here:
>  * http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/

> "The Semantic Web is an extension of the current web in which information 
> is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to 
> work in cooperation."

No dispute, no fear. I don't have any axes to grind for or against
the SW, just a hard-won skepticism about anything that talks
about "meaning" in the context of software, and anything that seems to
assume that there are technological fixes to conceptual problems that
have bedeviled great minds for centuries.  It is one of my fondest wishes
to be proven overly cynical about this (or anything else, sigh).  I would
dance for joy if someone figured out how to give information a well-defined
meaning that computers and humans could cooperatively process; I "retired"
from social science grad school in about 1980 thinking that I could make a living
for a few years in the computer industry, and by then the coming breakthroughs
in AI, etc. would be ready to apply to social problems.  Still waiting!

I'm sorry if I come across as overly hostile about RDF/ontoloties/etc.
I just have a bad reaction to scenarios such as the one at the beginning
of the Scientific American Article that both the SW and
the Web Services advocates seem to love.  I was once involved in a project
(in a conceptualization /evangelism capacity, not in a "real work"
capacity) that was a bit like this snippet from that article:

"The agent promptly retrieved information about Mom's prescribed 
treatment from the doctor's agent, 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."

The technology challenges required to make something like this work are
non-trivial, but utterly BORING compared to the 
challenges of getting vendors to build
truly interoperable systems, getting doctors to invest in unproven 
technology, getting insurance companies to share information that 
they consider proprietary, getting someone in any industry to 
rate as less than "excellent" anyone with access to  a 
lawyer, and defeating those who would "game" the system to benefit
themselves.  Not to mention the little detail of finding a business
model to actually pay for all this.


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