What is the Semantic Web and What Will it Do for eScience?
21 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2009 Last revised: 14 Jan 2009
Date Written: October 1, 2006
The paper discusses what kind of entity the proposed Semantic Web (SW) is, in terms of the relationship of natural language structure to knowledge representation (KR). It argues that there are three distinct views on the issue: first, that the SW is basically a renaming of the traditional AI knowledge representation task, with all the problems and challenges of that task. If that is the case, as many believe, then there is no particular reason to expect progress in this new form of presentation, as all the traditional problems of logic and representation reappear and it will be no more successful outside the narrow scientific domains where KR seems to work even though the formal ontology movement has brought some benefits. The paper contains some discussion of the relationship of current SW doctrine to representation issues covered by traditional AI, and also discusses issues of how far SW proposals are able to deal with difficult relationships in parts of concrete science. Secondly, there is a view that the SW will be the WorldWideWeb with its constituent documents annotated so as to yield their content or meaning structure more directly. This view of the SW makes natural language processing central as the procedural bridge from texts to KR, usually via a form of automated Information Extraction. This view is discussed in some detail and it is argued that this is in fact the only way of justifying the structures used as KR for the SW. There is a third view, possibly Berners-Lee's own, that the SW is about trusted databases as the foundation of a system of web processes and services, but it is argued that this ignores the whole history of the web as a textual system, and gives no better guarantee of agreed meanings for terms than the other two approaches.
Keywords: internet, semantic web, natural language structure, knowledge representation, artificial intelligence, information extraction, databases, e-science
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