Spivack on metalanguage

I don’t usually trust the explanatory power of obvious analogies between the Web and the brain / mind or genes and memes, so I was going to give Nova Spivack’s recent article entitled Minding the Planet: From Semantic Web to Global Mind a miss. But if you want an accessible big-picture approach to the computing (as opposed to the linguistic) concept of metalanguage and its importance for the future of distributed intelligence, try it. Here’s a excerpt on how agents can mark up a text article with semantic data in various different areas of expertise:

We might even imagine that some of these agents are capable of generating new articles and data structures about the original article and linking them together – for example, one agent might generate a synopsis, another might translate it into another language, another might measure the opinions in the article, still another might generate a report based on the conclusions in the article. Because all of this knowledge is expressed using open semantic metadata standards, any program that later encounters any of it can make use of it in its own work, without having to be expressly programmed to do so.

This is already starting to happen in fact – For example, in the blogging community and communities of practice, which in an entirely bottom-up emergent manner, are naturally aggregating, annotating, linking, organizing and prioritizing information. Although there is no central guidance within such knowledge communities, their collective self-organizing behavior results in global information processes that appear to be intelligent. If one were to view the information dynamics of the Web from space – perhaps with a special sensor that could detect and measure these patterns as they emerged – would it not appear similar to the a functional brain imaging scan?

Andrew Joscelyne
European, a language technology industry watcher since Electric Word was first published, sometime journalist, consultant, market analyst and animateur of projects. Interested in technologies for augmenting human intellectual endeavour, multilingual méssage, the history of language machines, the future of translation, and the life of the digital mindset.

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