Saturday, November 3, 2007

KCAP 2007

Aside from getting ready for that committee meeting, I had the chance to go the 4th international conference on knowledge capture (KCAP) up in Whistler, British Columbia. From the new technology perspective, the most impressive results I saw came from the Turing Center down in Seattle. Though they didn't say so directly (in fact the opposite), it seems to me the dream of Strong A.I. is alive and well down there.. In a massively reduced nutshell, they are capitalizing on the scale of the Web to start translating its textual content into machine processable units of knowledge automatically. They are working on the reading machine. See TextRunner and Alice for examples.

I met and reconnected with quite a few people at the conference, here are a few of the main ones I spoke with:

  • Reconnect -> Marja Koivunen, founder of Annotea
  • Reconnect -> Mikele Pasin, creator of PhiloSURFical
  • Met -> Anna Tordai, part of the MultimediaN E-Culture project
  • Reconnect -> Derek Sleeman, among many things, one of the founders of the KCAP conference.
  • Reconnect -> Dragan Gasevic, professor at SFU and Athabasca
  • Met -> Andriy Nikolov, my roommate for the conference.
  • Reconnect -> Michele Dumontier, professor at Carleton university and one of the few bioinformatics representatives at the conference
  • Met!!!! -> Luis von Ahn, professor at Carnegie Mellon, inventor of the CAPTCHA, and coiner of one of my favorite terms 'Human Computation' for describing Games With a Purpose (GWAP). It was really exciting to meet him in person after reading and thinking so much about is work. He was very friendly and, in contrast to other famous super-geeks I've met in the past, didn't make me feel like a complete idiot when I spoke with him.

Though the most exciting new and working thing at the conference was the Web-scale NLP, the Next Big Thing clearly seems to be the integration of this work with Luis' human computation. Have to say, I'm happy to have made a small stab in that general direction already and am excited to do a better job of it in the coming months...