Flop of the Year?
IEEE Spectrum Editor Steven Cherry wrote the article Digital Dullard in, well, IEEE Spectrum. Well, he obviously dislikes Paul Allen for his money, and can't stop ranting about him, and about Mr Allen spending millions and millions of Dollars in research projects ("that's just the change that drops down behind the sofa cushions"). Yeah, Mr Cherry, you're totally right - why should he spend more than 100 Million Dollars in research, he should rather invest it in a multi-million house, an airline or produce a Hollywood blockbuster with James Cameron.
The thing is, Cherry claims the whole project of creating a Digital Aristotle, dubbed Project Halo, is naught but thrown out money, because understanding a page of chemistry costs about 10.000$. For one single page! Come on, how many students would learn one page for 10.000$?
Project Halo succeeded in creating a software program that is capable of taking a high school advanced-placement exam in chemistry, and actually, to pass the exam - and it did, and even beating the average student in it. Millions have been spent, says Cherry, for that? Wow...
Cherry fails to recognise two points here, that illustrate the achievement of such a project:
First, sure, it may cost 10.000$ to get a program that understands one page, and it may cost only 20$ to get a human to do the same. So, training a program that is able to replace a human may cost millions and millions, whereas training a human to do so will probably cost a mere few ten thousands of dollars. But ever considered the costs of replication? The program can be copied for an extremely low cost of a few hundred bucks, whereas every human costs the initial price.
Second, even though the initial costs of creating such prototype programs may be extremely high, that's no reason against it. Arguments like this would have hindered the development of the power loom, the space shuttle, the ENIAC and virtually all other huge achievements in engineering history.
It's a pity. I really think that Project Halo is very cool, and I think it's great, Mr Allen is spending some of his money on research instead of sports. Hey, it's his money anyway. I'd thank him immediately if I should ever meet him. The technologies exploited and developed there are presented in papers and thus available to the public. They will probably help in the further development and raise of the Semantic Web, as they are able to spend some money and brain on designing usable interfaces for creating knowledge.
Why do people bash on visions? I mean, what's Cherry's argument? I don't catch it... maybe someone should pay me 20.000$ to understand his two pages...
Originally published on Semantic Nodix