Wolfram|Alpha is coming

Steven Wolfram in his blog at Wolfram Research:

Stephen-wolfram-dr_med Mathematica has been a great success in very broadly handling all kinds of formal technical systems and knowledge.

But what about everything else? What about all other systematic knowledge? All the methods and models, and data, that exists?

Fifty years ago, when computers were young, people assumed that they’d quickly be able to handle all these kinds of things.

And that one would be able to ask a computer any factual question, and have it compute the answer.

But it didn’t work out that way. Computers have been able to do many remarkable and unexpected things. But not that.

I’d always thought, though, that eventually it should be possible. And a few years ago, I realized that I was finally in a position to try to do it.

I had two crucial ingredients: Mathematica and NKS. With Mathematica, I had a symbolic language to represent anything—as well as the algorithmic power to do any kind of computation. And with NKS, I had a paradigm for understanding how all sorts of complexity could arise from simple rules.

But what about all the actual knowledge that we as humans have accumulated?

A lot of it is now on the web—in billions of pages of text. And with search engines, we can very efficiently search for specific terms and phrases in that text.

More here.