The Metaphors of the Internet


I. The Genetic Blueprint

A decade following the invention of Earth Wide Internet Tim Berners Lee is encouraging the”Semantic Web”. The Internet hitherto is a repository of electronic content. It’s a rudimentary inventory system and very crude data location services. Being a sad result, most of the material is invisible and inaccessible. Moreover, the Internet manipulates strings of symbols, not logical or semantic propositions. Put simply, the Net compares values but doesn’t recognize the meaning of the values it thus manipulates. In short, it doesn’t know language. This lack of knowledge about these foundations of its raw material (data, information) prevent applications and databases from sharing resources and feeding on eachother. The web is discrete, not continuous.

Even visionaries such as BernersLee do not consider an”intelligent Web”. They are simply proposing to let users, content creators, and web developers assign descriptive meta tags (“name of hotel”) to fields, or to strings of symbols (“Hilton”). All these metatags (arranged in semantic and relational”ontologies” – lists of metatags, their meanings and also how they connect with eachother ) is read by a variety of applications and let them approach the associated strings of symbols correctly (place the word”Hilton” in your address book under”hotels”). This is likely to make information retrieval more effective and dependable and the data retrieved is bound to be relevant and amenable to higher level processing (statistics, the evolution of heuristic rules, etc.). This would bring the Internet closer to the classic library card catalog yatour.

Even in its latest, pre-semantic, hyperlink-dependent, period, the Internet brings to mind Richard Dawkins’ seminal work”The Selfish Gene” (OUP, 1976). That would be particularly true for the Semantic Web.

Dawkins suggested to generalize the principle of natural selection into a law of the existence of this stable. “A stable issue is an assortment of atoms which is permanent enough or common enough to deserve a name”. He then went to characterize that the development of”Replicators” – molecules which created copies of themselves. The Replicators that survived in the contest for scarce raw materials were characterised by high longevity, fecundity, and copying-fidelity. Replicators (now known as”genes”) constructed”survival machines” (organisms) to shield them by the vagaries of an ever-harsher environment.

This is quite reminiscent of this net. They are replicators – they create copies of themselves every time their”web site” (URL) is clicked. The HTML coding of the internet site can be thought of as”genetic material”. It comprises all the info necessary to copy the web page. And, exactly as in nature, the more complex the longevity, fecundity (measured in links to your webpage in other web sites), and copying-fidelity of the HTML code – the higher its chances to survive (like a web site ).

Replicator molecules (DNA) and replicator HTML have one point in common – they are both packaged data. In the suitable context (the ideal biochemical”soup” at the case of DNA, the perfect software application in the case of HTML code) – this information generates a”survival machine” (organism( or even perhaps a web page).

The Semantic Web will just increase the longevity, fecundity, and copying-fidelity or the underlying code (within this situation, OIL or XML rather than HTML). In this event, the web site’s”DNA” (its OIL or XML code) contains”single genes” (semantic meta-tags). The entire process of life is the unfolding of some sort of Semantic Web.

“First point to understand about a modern replicator is it is exceedingly gregarious. A survival machine is a vehicle containing not only 1 gene but many thousands. The manufacture of a human body is a cooperative venture of such intricacy it is almost hopeless to disentangle the contribution of one gene from that of another. A given gene will have many unique effects on quite different components of your body. A certain section of their body is going to soon be affected by several enzymes and the effect of any 1 gene is dependent upon interaction with a lot of the others. . .In conditions of the analogy, any given page of the plans makes mention of many distinctive regions of the construction; and each page makes sense only with regard to crossreference to numerous other pages”

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