Sunday, July 11, 2004

Philosophers Wanted. Enquire Within.

As an AI researcher, I find my internship at Cycorp Inc. a stimulating experience. But job satisfaction at Cyc is probably highest for the 20-odd philosophers that Cyc employs. That's right, philosophers.

The goal of Cyc is to build a complete Formalization of Human Knowledge, stuff we take for granted every day as "common sense". This includes seemingly trivial facts like "Rain is wet but ice is not." but also arcane wisdom such as "The temporal intersection of two events is disjoint with their spatial intersection." This kind of thing is, of course, right up the Philosophers' alley. Lunch-time discussions at Cyc are peppered with wry observations and vigorous debate over issues the rest of the world would dismiss with a "Whatever". Of course in true philosophical fashion, Cycorp view the rest of the world as a special case.

For example, did you know that the set of all unicorns is not equal to the set of all vampires; but the collection of all unicorns is equal to the collection of all vampires? Because a set is defined intentionally, ie. It has a meaning independent of its elements, whereas a collection is defined extensionally, it is merely the sum of its parts, which in both the cases above is zero.

Go ahead, scratch your head.

(To explore the wonders of Cyc more thoroughly, visit Opencyc - the Free [as in Beer] release.)


Anonymous said...

"On the impassive ice lightings play.." -Pope.Hmm...formalizing human knowledge,good idea given we might be gone in a century or two!


m. said...

this seems a terribly familiar concept... encyclopaedia galactica!! asimov may have been on to something :d

Frank D. said...

Do you need a Phd?
I'd like to find out some more about your internship if you don't mind. Thanks -Frank

Anonymous said...


Whoever wrote this article is a liar. There is no job satisfaction at Cycorp. The corporation harasses employees. It is a very bad place to work.