11 August 2006

OpenCyc: Wikipedia with Intelligence

One of the long-held dreams of computer science is to create systems that "understand" the world in some sense. That is, they can respond to questions about a knowledge domain and produce answers that aren't simply restatements of existing information. Or as Cycorp, probably the leading company in this field, puts it slightly more technically in describing its main product:

The Cyc Knowledge Server is a very large, multi-contextual knowledge base and inference engine developed by Cycorp. Cycorp's goal is to break the "software brittleness bottleneck" once and for all by constructing a foundation of basic "common sense" knowledge--a semantic substratum of terms, rules, and relations--that will enable a variety of knowledge-intensive products and services. Cyc is intended to provide a "deep" layer of understanding that can be used by other programs to make them more flexible.

If this is your kind of thing, the good news is that there is an open source version called OpenCyc. The president of the associated non-profit Cyc Foundation has an explanation of what the software does that is slightly more user-friendly than the one above:

Foundation president, John De Oliveira, compared the Foundation's "Cyclify" effort to the Wikipedia project. He said, "The Wikimedia Foundation asks us to 'Imagine a world in which every single person is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.' In the Cyclify project, led by The Cyc Foundation, we ask you to imagine a world in which every single person is given free access to programs that reason with the sum of all human knowledge."

(Via Slashdot.)

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