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Re: [ontolog-forum] IBM Watson on Jeopardy

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2011 12:27:50 -0500
Message-id: <4D542016.7010506@xxxxxxxx>
Peter Yim wrote:
> [ppy]  I watched the PBS program last night, and think it was *really*
> well done (considering the audience they are airing this to.) The only
> disappointment (to me, at least) is that the "O" word did not appear
> even once.  :-)
>       (01)

This jest accidentally raises a point we should be aware of.  Most of 
Watson is not about 'formalizing knowledge' in the way we do with 
ontologies.  It is about extracting, interpreting, and integrating the 
knowledge contained in natural language corpora.  I'm sure that some 
part of the innards of Watson is based on what we would call an "upper 
ontology", but NLP existed for 40 years before that buzzword came into 
use.  So we should not be surprised that people who are actively 
extracting knowledge from natural language text are only going to talk 
about its relationship to 'ontologies', when (a) they actually use 
formal logic knowledge structures, and (b) they are talking to academic 
audiences or funding sources for whom 'ontology' is a key buzzword.    (02)

Artificial Intelligence takes many forms, and it always has.  'Ontology' 
is just one of them, and, assuming that the term is well-defined, it is 
marginally relevant to how Watson, and many other valuable AI tools, work.    (03)

I apologize for raining on your joke, Peter, but there are lots of 
valuable AI technologies, and making formal logic models of the world is 
only one of many, and may not turn out to be the most valuable.  We need 
to keep our work in perspective.  "By their fruits shall ye know them."  
When NOVA features a splashy success that is based on formal ontologies, 
then you will hear the O word on PBS. ;-)    (04)

-Ed    (05)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                Cel: +1 240-672-5800    (06)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST, 
 and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (07)

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