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Re: [ontolog-forum] Inventor of the Web Gets Backing to Build Web of Dat

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Cameron Ross <cross@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 2010 11:05:09 -0400
Message-id: <bc2b292f1003240805o4fe4a026vfc41786af4f707da@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Good points John.  I couldn't agree more.


On Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 10:35 AM, John F. Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Pavithra and Cameron,

I am strongly in favor of support for universities.  But at the
same time that the Brits dumped that money on the institute for
"web science", they were taking money away from many talented
professors, who were working in other areas of computer science,
logic, linguistics, and related fields.

PK> But when government spends money on educational institute
 > and scientific research, it is never a waste. In fact, it is
 > a vested in interest in humanity...

I agree that governments waste much more money in ways that
are often much less productive.  But if they're giving money
to universities, they could get better productivity by funding
30 separate projects than one large institute that is isolated
from the computer science departments.

CR> For me, its not about whether or not to invest in R&D...
 > clearly we need to do this.  Rather, its about what to invest in.

Yes.  My major complaint about the Semantic Web has been that it
is *isolated* from the mainstream of software design, development,
and use.  Putting it in a separate institute just makes it even
more isolated.  That is a terrible step in the wrong direction.

Following is an excerpt from a note I sent to an email list for
the OMG.  It explains in more detail why I believe that this
institute is counterproductive.


Since I have been working with ontologies, I'd like to make some
remarks that distinguish the directions I have recommended from
what has been done with the Semantic Web.

As I said before, my major complaint about the Semantic Web is
that it was "too provincial".  They completely ignored the half
century of work on software design, development, and specification
that had been funded by income from actual money-making products.

When Tim B-L published his book, commercial web sites, large and
small, were built around a relational database, and UML was the
most widely used notation for specifying software.  If the W3C
had designed their tools and notations in a way that could take
advantage of that work and extend it further, the Semantic Web
would have become a unifying force for integrating all software
design and development.

Instead, they ignored everything that was done before, and took
some ideas that the AI community had pioneered in the 1970s.
There were some useful commercial applications of those ideas
in the 1980s, but they weren't widely adopted -- partly because
they were isolated from the mainstream of commercial IT. Instead
of integrating those ideas with the mainstream, the SW kept them
isolated.  And -- surprise, surprise -- they're still not widely
adopted today.

The point I make about semantics is that it cuts across every
aspect of system design, development, and use.  It has the
potential for unifying all those aspects.  But you can't unify
anything if you put it in an isolated compartment that is
separate from the things you're trying to unify.

I worked in R & D for 30 years at IBM, which had an outstanding
research "division".  Unfortunately, being a division kept it
divided from the divisions that developed products.  That is
one reason why IBM had a reputation for being in the forefront
of every major development in computer science and technology,
but usually *second* in the actual deployment of the technology.

That is why I believe it is hopelessly counterproductive to
put "web science" into an isolated institute where it further
reduces its contact with both universities and industry.

John Sowa

Kojeware Corporation

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