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Re: [ontolog-forum] [Fwd: [CL] RIF Basic Logic Dialect hits last call]

To: edbark@xxxxxxxx, "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: OMG Ontology PSIG <ontology@xxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2008 21:19:12 -0400
Message-id: <48B8A010.9050605@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Ed,    (01)

Thanks for sending a copy of Chris Welty's note to Ontolog forum.
Following is a slightly edited version of my response to Chris.    (02)

_________________________________________________________________    (03)

Chris,    (04)

I realize that many intelligent people have devoted a great deal
of effort to producing the RIF document, but I am disappointed
by the fact that the Semantic Webbers have isolated themselves
from the successes achieved by other very intelligent people in
computer science and data processing over the past 50 years.    (05)

For example, the Semantic Web suffers from same provincialism
that prevented AI from being integrated into the mainstream of
data processing.  To a certain extent, I can't blame the AI crowd,
because the circumstances that led to their isolation were not
entirely their fault.  I would put some of the blame on IBM, the
company where I worked for 30 years:    (06)

   1. Much of the earliest work on AI in the 1950s was done on IBM
      computers, such as the 704 vacuum-tube machine and the upward
      compatible transistorized versions, the 7090 and 7094.    (07)

   2. In 1964, two major developments occurred:  IBM introduced
      the new System/360 line, which broke compatibility with the
      7094, and DEC introduced its first large system, the PDP 6,
      which was as fast as a System/360 Model 65, but as cheap as
      a Model 50.    (08)

   3. At that time, both the MIT and Stanford AI groups were
      planning to upgrade their hardware, and they agreed to
      purchase identical hardware configurations so that they
      could share code.  The obvious choice was the PDP 6.    (09)

   4. The IBM monopoly had sucked almost all data processing onto
      IBM equipment, and DEC was left with a much smaller market.
      But the cutting edge work in AI was carried out on DEC
      equipment until the 1980s, when much of it moved to Sun
      workstations and LISP machines.    (010)

As a result of this history, the database field (which used the
largest available machines, mostly IBM mainframes) was totally
isolated from the AI research (which ran on much smaller machines
that lacked industrial-strength database software).  Furthermore,
the COBOL language, which most people in comp. sci. treated with
contempt, was the most widely-used language for data processing.    (011)

In the early 1980s, rule-based expert systems were very hot,
and I was working with the AI groups at IBM.  Many commercial
applications (including many within IBM) could have benefited
from such technology.  But very little of the major AI software
could run on IBM hardware, and none of it could support mainstream
data processing systems that used RDBs and COBOL.    (012)

There was once a saying that the economy of the free world ran
on COBOL and relational DBs.  Today, COBOL is less important than
it used to be, but relational DBs are more entrenched than ever.
Now the *world* economy runs on RDBs.    (013)

Almost every major web site includes a large RDB, and the medium
sized web sites are based on LAMP:  Linux, Apache, MySQL, and
Perl, Python, or PHP.  But the developers of RDF(S) and OWL
ignored that extremely important part of the WWW.    (014)

The Semantic Web failed to provide a seamless integration with
RDBs.  (SPARQL is *not* a solution -- it is just one more step
*away* from integration.)  There is an ISO standard for Prolog,
which is very widely used for major applications.  Experian,
one of the three largest credit bureaus, *bought* Prologia --
the company founded by Alain Colmerauer, the inventor of Prolog.
But instead of building on the ISO standard for Prolog, the RIF
designers developed an incompatible rule language.    (015)

If you want a serious proposal on how to make the Semantic Web
succeed, following is an outline of my recommendations:    (016)

  1. Integrate the SW with relational databases.  That means
     n-tuples, not triples, as the primary data format.    (017)

  2. An upward compatible version of SQL should be supported
     as the query language, but a typed version of the much
     cleaner Datalog language should also be supported.    (018)

  3. Integrate the SW development tools with the mainstream
     software development tools, such as the UML diagrams,
     but provide a firm logic foundation based on logic,
     preferably a logic that puts a premium on semantics,
     not syntax.  The ISO standard for Common Logic is
     an example.    (019)

  4. Design RIF as a syntactic front-end to ISO standard Prolog,
     but also provide a switch that permits either classical
     negation or negation-as-failure (as in Prolog).    (020)

  5. Pay serious attention to Google's protocol buffers, which
     they developed as their primary notation for transmitting,
     storing, and processing large volumes of structured data.    (021)

There are many more details to be added, but these are the
fundamental prerequisites for a successful Semantic Web.    (022)

The fact that Google, the largest and most successful of the WWW
businesses, has ignored RDF and OWL is a sign that the SW, on its
current path, will be limited to a marginal role on the fringes
of the WWW.    (023)

John    (024)

PS Re AI history:  Stanford and MIT bought identical hardware,
but as soon as they wrote the first lines of code, their software
became incompatible:  MACLISP from MIT and InterLISP from Stanford.
That fragmentation was another obstacle to commercial success.    (025)

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