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Notes for “Rebuilding the Tower of Babel”

  • Example of the Biblical story
    • Curse of the languages – that people could no longer cooperate
    • Three lessons
      • Don’t mess with God
      • Cooperation
  • How do we identify that apples are apples and oranges are oranges?
    • We put our experiences together in order to distinguish the two things
    • Context
    • The “database of things” around our experiences
  • What happens when we don’t agree?
    • We crash Martian orbiters
  • What about a computer?
    • When a computer encounters a piece of data, it has no context
    • Is the number 20 an hour, a number, the result of an algorithm?
  • Can’t computers use HTML as a sort of a database to provide context for all the things they look at?
    • No; HTML was designed for humans to understand; not for computers
  • People understand relationships between data; computers don’t unless we tell them
  • How do we get computers to understand and give them context?
    • How do you explain the semantic web and semantic technologies?
    • Tagging important data with a context and a vocabulary
  • Humans frequently don’t speak the same language at all
    • We have different preconceptions and different filters
    • We have to build ontologies, vocabularies, and tag everything and connect it to the semantic database so computers can understand it
  • If you are running predictive analysis on a whole bunch of data, you can use semantic analysis to unify datasets from very distant places and use it to understand what’s predictive
  • Potential application: healthcare and science
    • Semantic data makes the data highly valuable, because it allows other groups to “piggyback” on work that is being done without needing a “translation” of the work
    • Any company can define their own ontology, but if we let a company control them, it becomes hard to use them
  • Publishing and Web apps
    • What if we started tagging news semantically so a computer can understand the relationships?
    • Starts with making pure browsing, search, and discovery better
    • MS Pivot as an example of data that is semantically tagged
  • Public health
    • What if we semantically tagged symptoms for everything across the country?
    • Could identify the patterns related to disease and illness outbreak
  • AI
    • Semantics is the foundation for very robust AI
    • This is why computers can’t respond to stimuli the same way we do
    • Example – have people watch something and take semantic data of the emotional response – use those curves to model relationship in a computer
  • Companies using – Merck, Biogen Idec, GroupM, Chevron
  • Projects
    • DBPedia – structured data from Wikipedia
    • GoodRelations – product information, etc.
    • Swoogle – semantic resource search engine
    • Cambridge Semantics – enabled spreadsheets used by Group M
    • Pivot
  • What does this all add up to?
    • A better understanding of our world and the patterns that drive it
    • Accelerated convergence of industries
    • Accelerated innovation and discovery
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