Quite shocking title - isn't it?
First — a word of explanation: I used to write here reviews of books that I read. But I'm also a businessman and, still, a scientist... Recently mostly computer scientists doing my mostly private research in Computer Sciences.
And on my trip to nearby Warsaw, for our conference for investors and media, I woke up in a hotel and suddenly an idea came to my mind that shakes the common understanding or interpretation of what Semantic Web is about. This was quite troublesome at that morning, as my conference had the title „Semantic Web for business”.
Traditionally, people in the field speak about „Machine Understanding” (like in the Wikipedia Semantic Web definition: „The Semantic Web, as originally envisioned, is a system that enables machines to "understand" ....). When machines are about to "understand" we come close to all these AI tales and predictions about machine intelligence and machine consciousness ...
It suddenly came to me, that, we, who care about Semantic Web, make a great harm to this fantastic field just by purporting that it will enable machines to understand.
Even if we put aside the dispute what exactly is this "understanding", it is clear that with all great achievements, we are very very far from the intelligent machines, AI, machine understanding etc. I know I will anger AI proponents, but there is quite common conviction that we are very far from any "understanding" on part of machines.
Semantic Web does not enable MACHINES to understand — it enables US, HUMANS to cope with vast sea of information (and the ground of data) and, in turn, TO UNDERSTAND the meaning of the data on the Web (and soon — everywhere). It does so by providing tools and techniques and specific frames and paradigms that enable PEOPLE to extract and UNDERSTAND, the MEANING of the information on the Web.
I know that this is nothing more but an interpretation and only a bit different point of view. I know, that when Tim Berners Lee spoke about "understanding" he used it in somehow metaphorical way. But I also know that many people today started to use this "understanding" in more literal sense, and that makes a big confusion in human minds, causing harm to this fantastic area of Computer Science...
So I will start making difference. Semantic Web is not for machines to understand, is for us to comprehend the meaning of the vast sea of information that form today's Web.
Written in Warsaw, 7.49, December 8, 2011