Computable data* (conceivably knowable) about people
May 1, 2009 6:42 AM   Subscribe

Stephen Wolfram discusses Wolfram|Alpha: Computational Knowledge Engine - at the same time Google Adds Search to Public Data, viz: "Nobody really paid attention to the two hour snorecast" -- like a cross between designing for big data and a glossary of game theory terms -- on Wolfram|Alpha (previously), yet the veil is being lifted nonetheless: "[on] a platonic search engine, unearthing eternal truths that may never have been written down before," cf. hunch & cyc (and in other startup news...) [via]

*boiling it down to that which can be computed (about the world)
posted by kliuless (29 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Well, it will be interesting to see how well this thing actually works.
posted by delmoi at 6:47 AM on May 1, 2009

Well, it's May. Where is it?
posted by the dief at 6:53 AM on May 1, 2009

If it's half as groundbreaking as A New Kind of Science it'll be...let's see, 0/2 is....still 0.
posted by DU at 7:04 AM on May 1, 2009 [6 favorites]

*looks forlornly at his half-unread A New Kind of Science* DUde, you just ran a GuiltSort on my reading list.
posted by adipocere at 7:06 AM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'd like to see how many of the first 1000 questions are "What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?"
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:26 AM on May 1, 2009

You know what would have livened up that presentation?
posted by Joe Beese at 7:27 AM on May 1, 2009

Quick, Robin. To the Bat Computer!
posted by popcassady at 7:29 AM on May 1, 2009

0/2 is 0 but OS/2 is ... still 0.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:36 AM on May 1, 2009

I'd like to see how many of the first 1000 questions are "What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?"

2,543,103 of the first 1000 queries.

It's a new kind of math!
posted by Skorgu at 7:56 AM on May 1, 2009

is this something I'd have to view in Mathematica to understand the relevance thereof?
posted by localhuman at 8:04 AM on May 1, 2009

strike relevance, replace it with importance.

all kidding aside, I think it would be awesome if in one of these wolfram bashing threads the New Kind of Scientist himself showed up and discussed it all with us.
posted by localhuman at 8:08 AM on May 1, 2009

A New Kind of Hype.
posted by grouse at 8:10 AM on May 1, 2009

localhuman: I don't think his ego would fit in the thread.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:34 AM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Is there anything new since we discussed this eight weeks ago? Other than some more hype, that is? Canned demos tell you nothing. For a more sober read on this, go to search industry expert Danny Sullivan.
posted by Nelson at 8:38 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is actually pretty cool. It's not going to have metaphysical implications or anything, but the ability to answer these structured queries is really neat.
posted by phrontist at 9:03 AM on May 1, 2009

I don't care whether the answer is correct or not, provided it can draw me a pretty three dimensional plot to look at alongside it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:05 AM on May 1, 2009

Finally we can get an answer to that timeless question, "Who was phone?"
posted by mullingitover at 9:10 AM on May 1, 2009

from the hunch link:

Hunch is essentially a tool for experts to help non experts -- and when we say experts, we don't necessarily mean people with Ph.D.s, but more often people who have taken the time to do research. For example, a colleague was researching whether or not he should spend the time and money to register a trademark, how much it cost, what the benefits would be. Once he was done, he could build a Hunch topic and share that research with others.

my admittedly limited exposure to patent librarianship causes all sorts of warning signals to go off here. When does something like this cross into "unauthorized practice of law?"
posted by nangua at 9:10 AM on May 1, 2009

Danny Sullivan seems to be profoundly missing the point, as this is not a search engine in any traditional sense. Nor is this a "Google killer" narrative, as the tech media likes to frame it. Tim O'Reilly gets it right in a blog comment.
posted by naju at 9:11 AM on May 1, 2009

i can understand there's a lot of negative feeling towards Wolfram, but watching his talk it does look like him and his team have found some very, very clever techniques for representing things and encoding semantics. They seem to have worked around quite a few of the problems which have held up the semantic web - though only attacking a subset of the problems that the semantic web attempts to solve. Hopefully this will speed the uptake of semantic web ideas, rather than derailing them, but give credit where it's due - even if this only works a tenth as well as it looks it'll be pretty damn useful and impressive. For instance, I happen to think that gapminder is pretty brilliant (and I suspect most other metafilter users would too) - and once you get around a personal distaste for Stephen Wolfram you'd have to admit that this makes gapminder look like a quaint little toy. Presumably at some point they will open up an API to allow people to make their own data available to the system (though I understand that they're probably going to always want to retain curatorial power) and I can only see that exponentially increasing its abilities. On the other hand I can't imagine that Wolfram Alpha could be sustained as a free service for very long though, because the computational costs of this stuff must be enormous.
posted by silence at 9:12 AM on May 1, 2009

How do you get rid of that annoying box over the video?
posted by geoff. at 9:21 AM on May 1, 2009

The first thing I will type into it will be "IS IT GHOSTBUSTERS 2?"

And it will tell me, finally, if it is Ghostbusters 2.
posted by zsazsa at 9:24 AM on May 1, 2009

If it's half as groundbreaking as A New Kind of Science it'll be...let's see, 0/2 is....still 0.

Perhaps it will be to Google what Google is to A New Kind of Science, in which case it will be infinitely awesome.
posted by blenderfish at 11:02 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Someday they'll build cities around this.
posted by webmutant at 12:29 PM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Wolfram? Isn't he one of the senior partners at Wolfram and Hart?
posted by Ber at 12:50 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Danny Sullivan got his briefing, here's his thoughts. Clear that Wolfram is now being very careful to position this as being different than search or Google.
posted by Nelson at 3:39 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wolfram Alpha is awesome! What kind of strange and wonderful new uses will people make of all this information? It'll be fascinating to find out.

Once again, though, this technology will underline the value of a good education, just as Wikipedia and the normal web has. Because it'll be useless if you don't know enough to ask the right questions.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:21 PM on May 1, 2009

"How many people did Stephen Wolfram sue to keep Matthew Cook's proof secret?"
posted by erniepan at 6:14 PM on May 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

Launching May 18th after short trial May 8th.
posted by adamvasco at 9:58 AM on May 9, 2009

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