GHuRU - Generic Higher Reasoning Utility

The world wide web is a huge, grossly disorganized, information and entertainment resource. Early efforts to manage the whole mess, such as Yahoo, a searchable, hierarchical directory of existing web sites, and AltaVista, a huge, searchable database of pages, have proved themselves invaluable. Without some sort of organization, the usefulness of the World Wide Web would have been quickly overwhelmed by the sheer bulk of information available. The problem (as well as much of the power) with existing organizational techniques, however, is their simplicity. Queries must generally be entered in a logical form that is often confusing to many people, and the results returned are not generally just quite what you are looking for, especially for more complex searches.

This is where this system comes in. Wouldn't it be neat if you could go to some web site, type in a question (as broad or as specific as you choose), and get an answer back, both the answer and the question in common English? That's what GHuRU will attempt to do. I will outline the basic design for GHuRU, including a couple of alternative methodologies. I'll also go into some detail about the components involved in the system and outline some problems that would come up during implementation.

|| General Overview || Implementation Concerns || Possible Offshoots ||

General Overview

Design Picture The basic system is pretty simple. It consists of a search engine (multiple search engines can also be supported), a natural language processing unit to convert between natural language (English in this case) and a logical language form that I am calling Reduced Conceptual Form (RCF), and a Higher Reasoning Unit (HRU) that can accept RCF as input and create Highly Reduced Conceptual Form (HRCF) as output which is then converted back into our language of choice. There is also an intermediate step bridging the Search Engine's output to the rest of the system. This step is where information is weighted based on its reliability and also actually retrieved from the World Wide Web.

|| RCF || HRU || NLP || Search Engine ||

In this design, I will assume the existence of a perfect Natural Language Processer compatible with RCF, but I will make some attempt to outline the requirements for a strict definition of RCF. I will use AltaVista as an example search engine while describing the issues involved with the generation of reliability weights. Finally, I will discuss the HRU in some detail and try to describe how it might function.

I can currently envision two different forms that GHuRU could take, one having an integrated search engine that was constantly looking for new information and higher concepts (by resolving independent lower concepts with each other), and building its knowledge base. The other would be more of a research tool that would try to answer questions that you pose to it by searching available engines, but never trying to go beyond that. With the first model, GHuRU would try to answer new questions. Following the old idea that every answer opens five new questions, GHuRU would in time, learn everything that was available to be learned. With the web as the source, this learning process could go on for quite some time.

Implementation Concerns

The biggest concern with any implementation is feasibility. Given the current state of computer technology, is this a worthwhile project? I think that the potential for a system like this makes its pursuit worthwhile even if a full large-scale implementation might not be at this time. I think that a largeish system (something akin to what AltaVista uses) could handle queries at an acceptable pace. If the search engine component were not integrated into the system, as would almost surely be the case in an early prototype, the network lag would necessitate a relatively large amount of time to answer a query. I would envision a scenario where you would ask a question and then have the answer emailed to you in an hour or so. Of course, this wouldn't suit the needs of the average web surfer, but once a prototype is available, all the pieces would be in place for further development.

Possible Offshoots

Any good idea makes you think of several more good ideas that are slight variations. A intranet version of this system could certainly be used to great effect, operating on a finite (is the web finite?) supply of organized (hopefully) information. In a case such as that, the real win over traditional database systems would be the easy to use interface, as well as the concept search idea as opposed to a simple keyword search.

If coupled with a translation system, GHuRU could also accept and answer questions in any language, drawing its information from data sources all over the world in multiple languages.

|| RCF || HRU || NLP || Search Engine ||

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