AI

Vol. 4 No. 4 – May 2006

AI

The Calculus Formally Known as Pi

Dominic Behan once asked me in a rare sober moment (for both of us): “What’s the point of knowing something if others don’t know that you know it?”1 To which I replied with the familiar, “It’s not what you don’t know that matters, it’s what you know that ain’t so.” I was reminded of these dubious epistemological observations while reading Stephen Sparkes’ interview with Steve Ross-Talbot in the March 2006 issue of ACM Queue.2 In promoting Robin Milner’s pi-calculus as the provably reliable backbone for BPM (business process management), Ross-Talbot eases our fears of the arcane, abstract pi-calculus axiomatics by stressing that the layman/programmer “would never need to see the algorithms...never need to read the literature, unless you were having trouble sleeping at night.”

The Calculus Formally Known as Pi

The hype over the pi-calculus

Stan Kelly-Bootle, Author

Dominic Behan once asked me in a rare sober moment (for both of us): “What’s the point of knowing something if others don’t know that you know it?”1 To which I replied with the familiar, “It’s not what you don’t know that matters, it’s what you know that ain’t so.” I was reminded of these dubious epistemological observations while reading Stephen Sparkes’ interview with Steve Ross-Talbot in the March 2006 issue of ACM Queue.2 In promoting Robin Milner’s pi-calculus as the provably reliable backbone for BPM (business process management), Ross-Talbot eases our fears of the arcane, abstract pi-calculus axiomatics by stressing that the layman/programmer “would never need to see the algorithms...never need to read the literature, unless you were having trouble sleeping at night.”

This is a perfectly valid attitude in the many areas where academic CS creeps up on practical computing. The very notion of abstraction, in the sense of hiding from us the deeper—nay, boring—details, is a computing sine qua non resting essentially on our respect for experts in other domains (until proved otherwise). What really happens when you drag-and-drop is beyond all reasonable knowing, so don’t ask! The familiar “need-to-know” criterion is, of course, often diluted to at least the “need-to-know-a-bit-about” urge by inherent human curiosity. Thus we can, without drinking too deeply at the Perrierian spring,3 hope to follow the gist when the gurus’ schisms break out, as they are oft wont to do.

by Stan Kelly-Bootle

Major Eclipse

As the Eclipse Foundation gears up to ship its most comprehensive set of open source application development tools to date, Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, explains why a best-of-breed approach based on an integrated set of open source tools ultimately will provide a better experience for developers.

As the Eclipse Foundation gears up to ship its most comprehensive set of open source application development tools to date, Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, explains why a best-of-breed approach based on an integrated set of open source tools ultimately will provide a better experience for developers.

The Network's New Role

Application-oriented networks can help bridge the gap between enterprises.

Companies have always been challenged with integrating systems across organizational boundaries. With the advent of Internet-native systems, this integration has become essential for modern organizations, but it has also become more and more complex, especially as next-generation business systems depend on agile, flexible, interoperable, reliable, and secure cross-enterprise systems.

by Taf Anthias, Krishna Sankar

Phishing for Solutions

Re: phishing, doesn't the URL already give away enough information?

Dear KV, I noticed you covered cross-site scripting a few issues back, and I'm wondering if you have any advice on another Web problem, phishing. I work at a large financial institution and every time we roll out a new service, the security team comes down on us because either the login page looks different or they claim that it's easy to phish information from our users using one of our forms. It's not like we want our users to be phished, but I don't think it's a technical problem. Our users are just stupid and give away their information to anyone who seems willing to put up a reasonable fake of one of our pages. I mean, come on, doesn't the URL give away enough information?

by George Neville-Neil

AI Gets a Brain

New technology allows software to tap real human intelligence.

In the 50 years since John McCarthy coined the term artificial intelligence, much progress has been made toward identifying, understanding, and automating many classes of symbolic and computational problems that were once the exclusive domain of human intelligence. Much work remains in the field because humans still significantly outperform the most powerful computers at completing such simple tasks as identifying objects in photographs - something children can do even before they learn to speak.

by Jeff Barr, Luis Felipe Cabrera

A Conversation with Werner Vogels

Learning from the Amazon technology platform: Many think of Amazon as 'that hugely successful online bookstore.' You would expect Amazon CTO Werner Vogels to embrace this distinction, but in fact it causes him some concern.

Many think of Amazon as "that hugely successful online bookstore." You would expect Amazon CTO Werner Vogels to embrace this distinction, but in fact it causes him some concern. "I think it's important to realize that first and foremost Amazon is a technology company," says Vogels. And he's right. Over the past years, Vogels has helped Amazon grow from an online retailer (albeit one of the largest, with more than 55 million active customer accounts) into a platform on which more than 1 million active retail partners worldwide do business. Behind Amazon's successful evolution from retailer to technology platform is its SOA (service-oriented architecture), which broke new technological ground and proved that SOAs can deliver on their promises.

Search Considered Integral

A combination of tagging, categorization, and navigation can help end-users leverage the power of enterprise search.

Most corporations must leverage their data for competitive advantage. The volume of data available to a knowledge worker has grown dramatically over the past few years, and, while a good amount lives in large databases, an important subset exists only as unstructured or semi-structured data. Without the right systems, this leads to a continuously deteriorating signal-to-noise ratio, creating an obstacle for busy users trying to locate information quickly. Three flavors of enterprise search solutions help improve knowledge discovery.

by Ryan Barrows, Jim Traverso