Semantic Web: the new AI?

Wednesday 1 January 2003

In the tag soup of a new generation, Mark Pilgrim cogently expresses his skepticism about the Semantic Web. I happen to semi-agree.

The semantic web is one of those technologies that will never live up to its full hype, but will provide us with real benefits nonetheless. I think it will be like AI: lots of intereting things were accomplished, but somehow each little piece that actually worked was officially categorized as “not AI”, leaving AI always a distant dream. If researchers in the ‘70s had seen Microsoft Word running with speech recognition, correcting grammar, they would have hailed it as breakthrough AI. Today, it’s just what a computer does, and AI remains somewhere in the future.

The Semantic Web is going to be like that. The ivory tower thinkers (have you ever tried to read the RDF spec?) will continue to imagine a gleaming city on the horizon, while the pragmatic hackers (like Mark Pilgrim himself) build cool stuff that uses newly-available meta-data to accomplish interesting things. And the whole time, the two camps will quarrel over whether the Semantic Web is ever achievable.

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