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by Neil Perkin on 12 May, 2010 - 22:34
This is a fascinating 15 minute documentary on the semantic web, notable for its stellar interviewees including Tim Berners-Lee, Clay Shirky, Chris Dixon, David Weinberger, and Nova Spivack. Despite the massive potential behind the huge surfeit of data on the web, we still have to work hard to properly integrate and interpret it.
The promise behind the semantic web is that it adds extra information to the links between stuff to add meaning to information so that links become relationships and data is contextualised.
But there's a really interesting discussion going on here between those that believe that the semantic web needs structures and ontologies and those who, like Clay Shirky, believe that what the semantic web is attempting to do is subvert the notion of making machines think like people, into the idea of describing the world in terms that machines are good at thinking about. The question that asks, says Clay, is whether it is possible to describe the world (or even sub-domains of the world) unambiguously, and in terms that most people will agree with? In other words, does the world make sense, or do we make sense of the world?
If the web is a subset of humans connected, then it is inevitable that it is a messy place, so the idea of a 'sloppy' or 'scruffy' semantic web - one where a little structure, combined with human intelligence, goes a long way - kind of makes more sense to me. Either way, its promise remains beyond our current imagination. "If we end up building all the things I can imagine", says TBL, "we will have failed". Fascinating stuff.
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