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[ontolog-forum] Wolfram Alpha preview

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 29 Apr 2009 14:40:41 -0400
Message-id: <49F89F29.7090407@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Yesterday, Stephen Wolfram presented a preview of the Alpha project.
For anybody who missed the online presentation, the You Tube version
is now available:    (01)

    http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/events/2009/04/wolfram    (02)

For the first half hour, Stephen W. gave a demo of the Alpha system
in action.  Like most demos, 5 minutes was OK, 10 minutes was
too long, and 30 minutes was excruciatingly boring.  But then he
switched to Q/A mode, which was much more interesting.    (03)

As the examples and the discussion indicated, the Alpha system has
a large number of templates for interpreting typical question patterns
by users.  Those templates are linked to Mathematica _notebooks_,
which correspond to Cyc microtheories, but with everything
represented in Mathematica notation and formalisms.    (04)

In the Q/A session, somebody asked for a comparison with Cyc, and
Wolfram said that Alpha is complementary.  Unlike Cyc, which was
designed for shallow commonsense reasoning about a broad range
of topics, Alpha is designed to do very deep computation about
many very narrow areas -- chemistry, medicine, geography,
finance, etc.    (05)

In effect, Alpha has a lot of special case ontologies specified
in the notebooks.  The only kind of common information is about
mathematics and units of measures.  The selection of a specific
notebook is done by the language templates and words.  (Sometimes
words can be misleading, as in the case of a person named 50 cents.)    (06)

For Peter or anybody else who is planning to invite Stephen W. to
present a seminar to the ontolog group, I would suggest waiting
for at least a month or two *after* Alpha has been released to
the world.  It would be much better for everybody to get a chance
to try out the Alpha system for themselves so that Wolfram could
be persuaded *not* to do a demo.  The demo part of the Harvard
presentation was not the highlight.    (07)

John Sowa    (08)

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