Re: SUO: Sowa's comments about CNN article about Cyc
Thanks for the note. I'm sorry if I mischaracterized your position
based on the snippets taken from your interview with a CNN reporter.
I believe that Cyc is a very important contribution to AI from which
all of us have learned a great deal. And I hope that OpenCyc will make
an even greater contribution to the progress of AI and related fields.
However, I have a different vision for how AI projects should be
developed. I realize that you have a right to pursue your vision,
and I wish you the best in your endeavors. But I'd like to compare
Cyc to Igor Sikorsky's four-engine bombers that he built for Russia
during World War I. In principle, they were magnificent achievements,
which made major contributions to the course of aviation, but in
practice, they were large slow targets. His later contributions came
after he made a 90 degree turn and designed the first successful
Perhaps someday you might make a 90 degree turn in your approach,
but if I had my "druthers", I'd make a 90 degree turn right now,
along the lines of my paper on architectures:
My emphasis would be on flexibility, modularity, and the ability to
accommodate any and every kind of component within a common framework.
As I say in the conclusion of that paper, it would include the complete
POSIX utilities as the lowest-level starter, but with any kind of AI
component added into the mix.
What I would like do with OpenCyc is to take it apart -- both its
ontology and its reasoning components. Then I'd reassemble them in
a way that would encourage modular replacements, recombinations,
extensions, and even deletions. There are many other activities
going on in AI and computer science, and I would like to make room
To clarify the difference in directions, I'd like to comment on
points 5 and 6 of your note:
> 5. ">Since 1984, he has been predicting that Cyc
> >would reach human-like abilities in five years"
> That's a little cruel; the horizon has approached several months per
> year. Part of the problem here is the media, I think, since
> the reporters ask where we'll be in 5 years, rather than what the
> next qualitative state-change will be and when we'll be there.
I apologize for the cheap shot. It is always easy to make humorous
remarks at other people's expense, and I understand the difficulty
in making progress on any major undertaking.
> In our 1984 project plan at MCC, and talks based on it, I
> would always show -- and in fact STILL show the same slide, but
> now in color in PowerPoint -- a graph with 3 S-curves representing
> three phases I thought (in 1984) would take about a decade each:
> getting Cyc manually to the point where manual ontologizing would
> yield to interactive dialogue and tutoring; then another decade to
> virtually automated NLU (information extraction from text at a level
> where the extracted information would be as good as a human
> doing the manual translation of the same written material); and
> then a third decade to "real" open-ended machinge learning. The
> first decade happened to have taken 16 years, which just shows
> I was thinking in hexadecimal all along. Seriously, that was longer
> than planned but I consider getting within a factor of 2 pretty good.
> I now believe that this second decade (getting the tutoring to be
> easier and more automatic, approaching real NLU) will take less
> than 10 more years, partly because of the Web, so we'll be starting
> our focus on machine learning around 2007, a few years later than
> planned in 1984.
That is a nice orderly plan. But I don't believe in orderly plans
for doing fundamental research. And for development, I believe in
plans that can be achieved in much shorter time frames. That is
another motivation for my modular proposal: accommodate any kind
of research prototype that anyone might want to do, but when any
component proves to be successful, spin off a commercial version
as soon as possible.
> 6. ">Instead, I believe that the organization of the knowledge base in a
> >flexible, dynamically changeable structure is far, far more important."
> We have no ideological axe to grind here. We evolved from frames to
> FOPC to HOL as we had to; we evolved away from cf's and to arguments
> because we had to; we evolved the context mechanism because we had
> to; etc.
But what you have just proposed is a very big ideological axe.
It might sound "practical" to ignore theory, but in engineering,
a good theory is usually the best foundation for practice. And
other ideologies, such as flexibility and modularity, have proved
to be extremely practical many times over.
> When you demonstrate something we can use, rest assured we
> will add it into the mix. We view the inference engine, the logic, even
> the CONTENT of the KB to be just scaffolding to facilitate the construction
> of what will come later; much like building a sand castle where you get
> the rough form in place and gradually get the details right. I don't
> CURRENTLY believe that structure, as you mean it, is that important,
> e.g. the sort of symmetry that Aristotle mystically ascribed great value to,
> nor do I believe the number of axioms is important. But I am willing to
> be proven wrong empirically, and I will (hopefully) continue to evolve.
> What I do believe is important is to get ENOUGH coverage (deductive
> closure), and ENOUGH "traction" (some combination of consistency
> and correct contextualization, plus efficient enough inference modules)
> to get to the next stage: from manual entry to tutoring to automated NL/ML.
> Feeling too much like lungfish crawling from the sea, we're slowly, painfully,
> getting there.
I am glad that you agree with God in the evolutionary approach to
design and development. But God is also very flexible and modular,
with "an inordinate fondness for beetles," as Haldane is supposed
to have said. God tried many designs in parallel, most of which failed,
and when He found a profitable design, such as the beetle, He took
advantage of it while continuing to experiment in other directions.
Bottom line: I would prefer a flexible modular approach to both
ontology and system architecture -- while looking for profitable
opportunities along the way. I have no compunctions against making
a profit on beetles to support my research on higher intelligence.