Aug 19

How Will the Semantic Web “Think”?

Bill Erickson sent me Kevin Kelly’s TED talk “Predicting the Next 5,000 Days of the Web”. Kelly discusses the semantic web, which uses relational data to make associations between site to site, profile to profile. The idea of a converging, thinking web is a fascinating concept. Kelly calls this thinking web “more reliable than its parts”. He goes so far as to calls the thinking web “The One”.

I am not afraid of the semantic web. What I am afraid of is a portrayal it as merely unifying. The web converges but it also destroys and stratifies, and NO ONE can truly grasp how all of these points within the web fully relate. It asks us to separate the truth from our own perspective of that truth. If this Truth exists, we wouldn’t be able to get passed ourselves to see it.

So how will the semantic web think outside a bias? We can try algorithms, but inevitably money and time seem to get factored in. A company called Google seems to always put Knol pages ahead of Squidoo pages on search results, even though they do the same thing. Knol is owned by Google whereas Squidoo is not though. The web is also biased because most people in the world are not on it, and therefore could not offer their own even perspective if they tried.

Food for thought: is the web “more reliable than its parts” if 5,000 people report a story incorrectly and the one person who was actually there is totally computer illiterate?

How will the semantic web distinguish what is popular versus what is right? Can it? How can we take steps so that truth goes beyond hype?