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Re: [ontolog-forum] Semantic Web shortcomings [was Re: ANN: GoodRelation

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2008 09:21:02 -0400
Message-id: <48AC1A3E.1050205@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat,    (01)

That inference doesn't seem to be convincing:    (02)

PC> One thing we learned from the Cyc project (and also from SUMO) is
 > that an ontology developed by one group will have great difficulty
 > gaining adoption by those who did not participate in its creation.
 > Cyc had the additional disadvantage of being proprietary for its
 > first 15 years (i.e. **not open**) and is still partly proprietary.    (03)

For many years, Cyc was being supported by sponsors who received
copies of all the code and who had the opportunity to send some
of their personnel to Austin to take courses and work with the Cyc
developers.  The companies who supported it received a license to
use any or all of that material, royalty free, in any of their
products.    (04)

Lenat gave a talk to Bill Gates at one time and convinced him to
sign up as a sponsor.  But after a couple of years, they dropped
their license, even though they would have had the right to package
any or all of Cyc in any or all MSFT products -- royalty free.
Around that time I also spoke with somebody in MSFT research,
and I asked him what people there thought about Cyc.  He said
that the were not impressed with its potential.  (Of course,
that might be a biased view by somebody who was working on
a different approach.)    (05)

I also spoke with the manager of the AI department at a large
corporation that had been a sponsor of Cyc from the beginning.
While I was visiting there, I also got a demo from a person
who was using Cyc for his project.  After that demo, I asked
the manager what they thought of their investment in Cyc.
He replied "Every person who had ever spent any time working
with Cyc has been fired, and I don't think it's a coincidence."    (06)

A few weeks after that visit, I sent an email note to the
person who showed me the demo, and the note bounced back
with an "address unknown" response.    (07)

The companies who signed up for Cyc paid a lot of money for it,
and they had employees who learned how to use the system.  But
apparently, they weren't able to build any useful applications
that the companies considered profitable or even promising.    (08)

That experience does not give me any confidence that another
Cyc-like or SUMO-like project on a bigger scale will produce
a high return on investment.  For years, I had been telling
Lenat that he should devote more time to work with customers
to develop useful applications.  But he kept saying that he
didn't want to "dilute" his research by working on applications.    (09)

I still believe that Cyc is a valuable resource, from which
we have all learned a great deal.  But one thing we learned is
that an unfocused research effort is not likely to discover a
pot of magic applications at the end of the rainbow.    (010)

John    (011)

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