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The Semantic Web Won't Work. Discuss.

By - November 08, 2003

logoLarge.gifClay Shirky, a prolific writer/thinker on subjects net-related, has made a strong argument against the “Semantic Web.” Why should you care? Well, the Sematic Web is Tim Berners Lee’s vision of the next version of the Web, a rather seductive vision which addresses many current shortcomings. And since he invented the first version, it gets some serious notice. But Shirky points out, in a very readable and convincing fashion, why the whole idea simply won’t work.

Some excerpts: “After 50 years of work, the performance of machines designed to think about the world the way humans do has remained, to put it politely, sub-optimal. The Semantic Web sets out to address this by reversing the problem. Since it’s hard to make machines think about the world, the new goal is to describe the world in ways that are easy for machines to think about.”

“There is a list of technologies that are actually political philosophy masquerading as code, a list that includes Xanadu, Freenet, and now the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web’s philosophical argument — the world should make more sense than it does — is hard to argue with. The Semantic Web, with its neat ontologies and its syllogistic logic, is a nice vision. However, like many visions that project future benefits but ignore present costs, it requires too much coordination and too much energy to effect in the real world, where deductive logic is less effective and shared worldview is harder to create than we often want to admit. “

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One thought on “The Semantic Web Won't Work. Discuss.

  1. Ross Stapleton Gray responded to this post by pointing out what should have been obvious to me – the thinking here is not entirely complete (others agree). Teaches me to be too gushing in my praise in an area where I’m a certified neophyte. He even has a great response to Clay’s idea that syllogisms’ weaknesses undermine the Semantic Web – in the form of a syllogism: “”some syllogisms are silly; Semantic Web is like syllogisms, ergo, the Semantic Web sucks.” Hee hee.

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