Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic recently shared an interview John Giannandrea regarding Google’s Knowledge Graph. Madrigal writes, “The ugly truth is that computers don’t know anything. They have no common sense. This idea had been circulating in Metaweb co-founder John Giannandrea’s head since 1997 when he was working at Netscape and thinking about how to reveal what you did not know you didn’t know on the web. If you were looking at search results for a hiking trail, say, what other hiking trails might you look at? Giannandrea called it ‘going sideways through the web,’ and he loved the idea, even if he couldn’t execute it back then.”

photo of John Giannandrea

John Giannandrea

He continues, “Years later, in 2005, Giannandrea teamed up with Danny Hillis and Robert Cook to cofound Metaweb, which had a simple premise: ‘What if we could make a catalog of all the stuff our computer should know?’ Giannandrea told me in a recent interview. ;We were interested in building a model of the world. Our computers are remarkably dumb about the stuff that we take for granted. You learn about stuff. You have some context for understanding. Our computers don’t work that way because we don’t have any loaded context.’ With remarkable confidence (hubris?), he and the other founders said to themselves, ‘Teaching computers all the discrete stuff in the world seems like it should be doable,’ so they set out to make a machine-readable catalog of everything in the world.”

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Image: Courtesy Google