Semantic Web Is Coming to Town

Web 2.0: an Open Door to the Future

In 1987 MCC (a team that later spun off into Cycorp) presented a futuristic concept in a private AI focus group gathering that is common practice today. Large network systems would be taught how to make sense of data through semantics taught by linguists, professors, psychologists, artists and anthropologists instead of mathematicians and programmers.

The result of this process is that you could query a system for “strong and daring person” and the system would return a picture of a man climbing a mountain cliff. It recognized the photo through tags that were cross-referenced with logical meanings through a language called CycL.

This concept is becoming more of a focus at Google. In the past two years several of the original members of this project began to work for or partner with Google.

Enter 2006, the year of Web 2.0. The technology has been implemented throughout the web and is known by the more common name “social networks”. It’s about how people socialize with each other through interactive systems that collect various forms of data. Companies such as flickr, youTube, blogger and mySpace have capitalized on the technology and understood it. Data can be networked through a series of tags, text, ratings, discussions and cross-links to determine their similarities and relationships with each other. As people are seemingly interacting with other people they are placing markers that allow for data to relate with other data.

A controversial service at Google named “personalized google” or “personalized search” tracks every search you perform while logged into your account and cross references search results with links you have clicked on in the past.

Professor Michael Wesch, an anthropologist at Kansas State University who is currently launching the Digital Ethnography working group just posted up the second draft of an incredible video outlining the history and purpose of Web 2.0.

It’s a great video not only for the content, but the project it represents. You can interact with the video and add to it at Mojiti. Moderated comments will be incorporated to the final video.

The Web Transition

Web 2.0 has been all about making it easier for people to locate content regardless of its form and making it easier for people to add and interact with data to various web systems. This is the entry point to the upcoming Semantic Web. Where the Web 2.0 has been focused on gathering information and building ties through a mixture of expert systems and non-expert users, the Semantic Web is focused on automating the collection of information and mashing up the data in an easy to understand humanized format, then presenting the information without being asked to do so.

The year 2006 will be remembered as the year of Web 2.0 and entry point to the semantic web where mashups, such as flickr’s geotag maps, and highly specialized semantic based processing, sometimes confused with AI because of its strongly linked ties with Turing machine concepts, along with creative people of all talents will make sense of the decade of data collected by the world wide web as well as information in the future.

The Future: Business Analysis Servers

Imagine a system that knows what information you’ll need for your Monday board meeting. Not because you programmed it to, but because it learned and logically deduced it.

It discovered through your outlook calendar when the meeting was and who would be attending. It matches process in your workflow and recently requested reports with the context of the meeting by a logical process involving keywords in your meeting request. It scans an attendee’s blog to find out that one of your business partners at the meeting has an affinity for blueberry bagels so it sends you an email suggesting you order some for your meeting. It also knows the recent concerns and buzzwords through IMs sent back and forth between you and your attendees and can detect whether the tone towards the topic is friendly or hostile, by which you are alerted on the presupposed tone of the meeting before it even begins. On top of all that, it prepares the charts and documents you are most likely going to want for that tone and sends it to you in a document through email.

Welcome to the semantic web.

TSA Behavior Detection Officer

I found an interesting tidbit on the TSA site while waiting at the airport.

A rude response from one of the TSA officers prompted me to see what their motivation is. Usually they’re stiff, but still polite. But still, does TSA offer incentives to those who “contain” incidents even if the TSA officer is prompting the incident by frustrating or belittling passengers? Is the overall security process designed to build tension and frustration?

One of the positions is a “Behavior Detection Officer”, or “BDO”. This could be either a euphemism for “race profiler” (which sounds politically incorrect no matter how close the ties are between race and terrorism) or it could mean they are trying to use psychological tactics to weed out the prospecting terrorists. I can’t tell for sure since their site doesn’t explain the roles of that position.

I’m guessing that their logic behind the latter concept is as follows: a terrorist would likely already be at edge. Making a difficult and frustrating situation and causing confrontation during it may make him go berserk, revealing him out of the crowd. Unfortunately, those who are most tense are the ones who are late for their flight. Under this presumption that means they’re the most likely ones to be singled out and even detained.

Possibly, but I’ve found through personal experience with those who have successfully committed suicide and have read other reports that those committing suicide come to a point of euphoria before its execution. If you find someone abnormally happy and content through the TSA line – that’s likely the person to be afraid of.

From either point of view, with their statement on behavior profiling it appears that the entire TSA process is designed specifically to add tension, frustration and anxiety on travelers. In other words, if some security member starts barking at you or makes a rude comment, just politely grimace and go on.

One more word of advice with the security screenings – Don’t Bathe In Glycerol Soap. Don’t even touch anything with glycerol a day before you fly out!

I got put on a temporary grey list at an airport for doing so – it set off all sorts of alarms when their machines sniffed my luggage and my person. I was detained and it took us twenty minutes to figure out exactly what chemical I could have had that would set off the alarms. It wasn’t until one of the officers asked if I had used a glycerol based hand lotion that it dawned on me that the soap I had used that morning was glycerol based.

The event that prompted all this? They are now scanning for video camcorders. You have to remove the camcorders from their case in the same manner that you handle laptops. The security officer wasn’t clear on this and was just asking if people had video cameras and mumbled something about how they weren’t allowed. I had asked why video cameras weren’t allowed and if that includes the new MacBooks since they include a video camera on the case. He then gave me the third degree. After some effort I went to another TSA officer who explained things more clearly.

They didn’t detain me and the other officers were polite as usual. Chances are that one TSA officer was a victim of the very same stressful environment he was hired to impose on the travellers – from that, I’d gather that it must suck to work for TSA.