Information technology

Sweitzer, Dennis (
Thu, 02 May 96 12:09:00 EST

Gene wrote>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
> Mediterranean flood is equally damaging to that idea. Now, numerically
> rating the importance of data might be artificial and stilted, but I
> wonder if it wouldn't in some cases help, especially when someone presents
> a relatively long list of points.

Paul responded>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
In order to manage this information, people are, I predict, going to
doing a lot more work in the areas of "natural language processing" and
"agent technology". These are areas that deal with all kinds of problems
metalanguage, cognitive science, semantics and computational linguistics,
other such fields that I know nothing about. But what it amounts to is the
development of a higher level of language that can be used to quickly
and evaluate -- not just words -- but sentences and perhaps even whole lines
of reasoning.
At any rate, apparently what Gene is suggesting is a kind of simplified
method of rating ideas numerically. This is a preliminary attempt to codify
and automate the task of evaluating information, and I think we ought to
experiment with it just to see if it can help.

I encourage everyone to become aware of these fields of study, and to
encourage your students to pursue them. A decade from now philosophical
debates may be resolved by two computers battling it out as in a chess game!

Paul Arveson, Research Physicist
And now, my 2 bits.

Wasn't it Rene Descartes who predicted a glorious future in which disputes
would not be settled by duels as in his day, but rather the opponents
getting out their pencils and calculating by logic who was right.
"Gentlemen, let us compute!". Of course, the future is never what it used
to be, and Descartes' vision collapsed as it encountered the complexity of

I suspect Gene was suggesting a simple rating of each fact on the basis of
it's importance. So a reader could see at a glance what the strong & weak
evidence is, and can avoid getting lost in the details. Of course, this may
reveal more about the writer than about the arguement.

"Agent technology" and such are currently conceived as a way of automated
searching for information of interest. The simplest is scanning information
for keywords, the more complex would recognize syntax and context. The
complications of this is illustrated by the recent internet censorship flap
in which access to several list servers was blocked because the word--dare I
say it-- "breast" was found. It must have blocked some pornography, but it
also hit breast cancer support groups. Obviously, this was a keyword
search, and not a context sensitive search.

As envisioned in the near future, software agents would find stories for me,
based on what I've enjoyed reading in the past. These would incorporate
genetic algorithms allowing it to mutate and prune it's search strategy,
based on whether I liked what it has brought me thus far. (But pity the
poor breast cancer survivor who must wade through pornography until her
software agent learns to distinguish between pornography and support

Of course, one drawback would be that the agent would only find things that
I've wanted in the past, not what might interest us in the future. That
would require human-like intelligence. Based on the ASA list server
traffic, many of us would be doomed to a future of electronic information
entirely about old-earth creation; a young earther, young earth
information. This narrow focus would keep us from information about say,
creation caretaking--an even more important topic, given the Biblical
mandate to be good stewards of what we are given, rather than only establish
it's age.

I recommend that anyone serious about these topics read the book "The
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". This scholarly [ ;-^) ] tome examines
questions of wide spread user friendly artificial intelligence (such as the
vending machine that scans your brain and synthesises a drink that tastes
somewhat like, but not quite, tea; or artificial personalities, like Marvin,
the manic-depressive robot whose wise advise is always ignored because he's
just too depressing; or the the door that cheerfully says "it's a pleasure
to open for you. Thank you for making a poor door happy".)

I found Hitchhiker's Guide to be hilarious. And thought provoking. It
raises the question of "will technology work as promised and be wonderful,
or will it work as promised and be annoying?". (And it even touches on the
question of the origens of the earth.........)

Grace & peace,

Dennis Sweitzer