josh zeidner on Thu, 12 Jul 2001 04:59:47 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> internetontology[ Cyc and D. Lenat ]

Hi Brian!

  Are you familiar with the Cyc project lead by Doug
Lenat?  It is essentially an attempt to construct an
ontology for the ENTIRE WORLD.  They have actually
managed to encode quite a bit of data.  A small subset
of it is available as open source.

  I think that there is something drastically flawed
with the ideas behind projects such as these.  To
assume that knowledge is empirical or fixed would
result in a sort of tyranny of thought, where only one
particlar system of signification dominates( the one
that is cheapest to purchase? ), and its
interpretation would be the monopoly of those who have
access to the physical device.  Many would say that
this flaw would eventually make itself evident in
operational shortcomings, but Im afraid this may not
be the case.  Should enough people have thier vested
interests in such a technology or thought paradigm,
then it will be FORCED on people, much the same way an
inferior technology like MS-DOS is popular simply due
to commercial reasons.  And when people become
immersed in it, they mistake it for the truth.

  Lenat also expressed an interesting concern.  The
owners of Cyc released a part of it as open source
with the hopes that developers would independently
develop new ontologies using thier(proprietary)
encoding syntax.  What Doug Lenat was concerned about
was that there would be conflicting ontologies, or
possibly even a informational schism resulting in many
cyc databases of knowledge.  What Lenat hopes to do is
to have the company consolidate the data as it sees
fit.  Will Doug Lenat be the final say on "life, the
universe, and everthing?".

  Right now, the project seems fairly harmless.  I
actually applied for employment there recently.  But
could we, in the future, have a centralized hierachial
database of real world knowledge that cannot be
challenged simply because "thats what it says"( if the
computer says so it must be true! )?  Sounds like the
catholic church of the middle ages.  Hello dark age
part II.

  naturally, the military has taken interest in the
project for some reason or another.

 -josh zeidner
> >
> >ShelfLife, No. 8 (28 June 2001)
> >

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