Thursday, February 15, 2007

Computers Don't Create Models (Today) – People Do

I had several good comments about my posting about the increasing role of semantics in the "Era of Tera". I did not mention some of the key concepts that the Intel paper discussed and the impact these concepts will have on IT strategy. Here is an excerpt:

The problem is ordinary computers don't model things. Aside from supercomputers, today's computers aren't capable of developing mathematical models of complex objects, systems or processes. Nor are they powerful or fast enough to perform such tasks at speeds people demand. We can't plug in a statistical model for a rare malignant tumor or the behavioral pattern of a shoplifting employee and search for similar instances of the model in a data set. To benefit from the wealth of data building up in the world, we need to be able to communicate with computers in more abstract terms (high-level concepts or semantics). We need to speak in terms of models.

I believe that the core problem is that there will be a HUGE demand for highly-skilled data-modelers/ontologists in five years. But there will not be a large supply since this skill is not something that can be learned from a single class in college. Rather it is more of a tacit skill that is not easily codifiable.

That being said, there are many best practices that ARE codifiable. You can already purchase books on OWL/RDF and metadata registries, although most of them are mired in relational database models or written by academics with little real-world experience. You can read the Wikipedia articles on “Data Stewardship”. What is still needed is a single set of best practices and tools for creating families of machine-readable data models that can be use as a basis for creating exchange models. And we need to do this without having to learn how to represent all 12 types of UML diagrams in XMI and transform them. The NIEM subset generator is a good example of the solid XML-Schema-driven front-end of this process of selecting elements from a metadata registry and putting them in your shopping cart.

The bottom line is that this is really about empowerment. And unless organizations introduce semantic web technologies into their organizations at a grass-root level and support them at the CEO level, many organizations will be left behind in the Era of the Tera.

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