Clay Shirky tears up the Semantic Web as appropriate only for an imaginary world where syllogistic reasoning matters.
Syllogisms sound stilted in part because they traffic in absurd absolutes. Consider this gem from Dodgson:
– No interesting poems are unpopular among people of real taste
– No modern poetry is free from affectation
– All your poems are on the subject of soap-bubbles
– No affected poetry is popular among people of real taste
– No ancient poetry is on the subject of soap-bubbles
This, of course, allows you to conclude that all your poems are bad.
This 5-line syllogism is the best critique of the Semantic Web ever published, as its illustrates the kind of world we would have to live in for this form of reasoning to work, a world where language is merely math done with words. Actual human expression must take into account the ambiguities of the real world, where people, even those with real taste, disagree about what is interesting or affected, and where no poets, even the most uninteresting, write all their poems about soap bubbles.
I agree with him about logic and the real world, but I’d like to hear from, oh, James Stewart if he’s reading, who is a fan of RDF and suchlike semantic things, to see what he thinks of Shirky’s overall critique.
You there James? :)