November 12, 2006
John Markoff has an interesting piece in this morning’s NYT on “the semantic web.”
The basic idea is of the web moving from a catalog with reams and reams of information (and search results) on any particular subject to a guide that actually gives you answers to your questions that are tailored to your particular tastes and preferences.
Lots of artificial intelligence experts out there have been working on this for years, and, as Markoff details, many think this field is getting closer and closer to bearing commercially relevant fruit.
Others, though, are looking not to computer driven artificial intelligence but rather to the wisdom of the crowds, and, more specifically, the ability of now common Web 2.0 tools like tagging to collect and then repurpose the crowd’s tastes to particular users. Take what Amazon does, for example, to make personalized book recommendations, and apply that across the web.
A great specific area where this debate is playing out is in the area of video search. Some folks out there are hard at work developing technologies like face and voice recognition to help us find the videos we are looking for. Others are more focused on using the tags of video users to make it easier for future viewers to find what they are looking for.
I am sure there is a role both for computer- and user-generated information in solving this problem. My vote, though, is that making sense out of the crowd’s wisdom will be the more important of the two.