THINKING ON THE WEB: BERNERS-LEE, GODEL, AND TURING
"Thinking on the Web" draws from the contributions of Tim Berners-Lee (What is solvable on the Web?), Kurt Gödel (What is decidable?), and Alan Turing (What is machine intelligence?) to evaluate how much intelligence can be projected onto the Web.
The authors offer both abstract and practical perspectives to delineate both the opportunities and challenges of a smarter Web through a threaded series of vignettes and a thorough review of Semantic Web development.
Although the target audience for this book is most likely comprised of computer science students, those well versed in computer science, IT type professionals and anyone with a vested interest in remaining on the leading edge of Web capabilities, it is my opinion that even a casual reader will benefit from reading this book. Because this book makes one aware of the current Web limitations and describes how it could be significantly more than what it is today and then launch us into the real Information Revolution. Yes, according to the authors we have not yet experienced the full Information Revolution.
This book makes you think about thinking or at least the thinking process as it relates to instilling the Web with enough artificial intelligence (AI) to make it capable of thinking. I learned from this book that the Web, as it is currently structured, it not really very intelligent at all and there are many enhancements that have to be made to bring the Web to its full potential. Those who are in any way interested in the Web achieving its full potential will be well served by reading this book.
The authors take on a sizable task and do an excellent job of interweaving the philosophical with the technical aspects of AI as a driver and/or incremental part of enabling the Web to "think". The authors start from the beginning and bring us up to the current status of web thinking. The beginning here is literally from Aristotle and along the way they spend considerable time laying a foundation that includes the significant contributions of Berners-Lee, Gödel, and Turing. After the first part of the book establishes the foundation, the second part of the book becomes very technical (as you would expect) focusing on Web ontology and logic and a lot more to address the complex superstructure that will be required to establish thinking on the Web.
One aspect of this book that I found refreshing and I believe unique for a technical book are the interludes at the end of each chapter. These interludes are a running interaction/dialogue between two computer science students as they debate/discuss the feasibility of using AI applications, etc. to make the Web capable of thinking. These interludes are refreshing to read and give a real life perspective of how daunting the task is to make thinking on the Web possible. And, indeed will we all ever agree on what thinking on the Web really means and if it is ever fully achieved? My opinion after reading this book is that there will probably not ever be a unanimous agreement. Of course, you will have to judge for yourself.
I gave this book five stars because I really learned a lot, and some of what I learned was more than I bargained for, a real surprise. The authors did a thorough job, and the book stimulates a lot of thinking about something we take for granted --- and that is thinking. Enjoy the book and when you read it, expect to be challenged.
(DePaz, Nov.27, 2008)
"Anyone with experience of HCI will want to read this book which after all, has provided a new and entirely different way of providing a stimulus to a subject that is very much in need of direction.? (Kybernetes, 2009)
"Thinking on the Web offers a fascinating history and impressive background of the age we are living through, and serves as a tribute to three great minds. A true geek bonus is the depth of coverage, with rich explanations, examples, and a look at next generation web services." (Blogcritics.org, March 9, 2009)