Monday, April 20, 2009

Software agents for virtual browsing and virtual presence

With so many places to go and so many things to see and do on the Web, it is getting almost impossible to keep up with the proliferation of interesting information out there. We need some help. A hefty productivity boost is simply not good enough. We need a lot of help. Browser add-ons, better search engines, and filtering tools are simply not enough. Unfortunately, the next few years holds more of the same.

But, longer term we should finally start to see credible advances in software agent technology which help to extend our own minds so that we can engage in virtual browsing and have a virtual presence on the Web so that we can effectively reach and touch a far broader, deeper, and richer lode of information than we can with personal browsing and our personal presence.

Twitter asks us what we are doing right now, but our online activity and presence with the aid of software agents will be a thousand or ten thousand or even a million or ten million times greater than we can personally achieve today. What are each of us interested in? How about everything?! Why not?

The gradual evolution of the W3C conception of the Semantic Web will eventually reach a critical mass where even relatively dumb software agents can finally appear to behave in a relatively intelligent manner that begins to approximate our own personal activity and personal presence on the Web.

It may take another five to ten years, but the long march in that direction is well underway.

The biggest obstacle right now is not the intelligence of an individual software agent per se, but the need to encode a rich enough density of information in the Semantic Web so that we can realistically develop intelligent software agents that can work with that data. We will also need an infrastructure that mediates between the actual data and the agents.

-- Jack Krupansky


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