Chapter 4. Foundations in Data Semantics

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The foundations of semantics lie in a 3000+-year debate of philosophy, scientific method, and mathematics.

  • Understanding meaning is inherently fuzzy, paradoxical, and context dependent.

  • Semantics in digital systems can be discovered through multiple avenues including pattern analysis, thesauri, inference, semantic mapping, and data nets.

  • Most information technology contains inherent, but only implicit, semantics.

  • Semantics are evolutionary—data meanings change over time.

A great debate involving some of humanity's most influential thinkers throughout history, on subjects like truth, logic, knowledge, and wisdom, has raged on for over 3000 years. This discussion, as the study of knowledge, has in large part shifted during the past hundred years—toward subjects like linguistics, natural language, and semiotics.

As much as this extended debate might be interesting for philosophy enthusiasts, one should certainly question how relevant it is to what matters in day-to-day business activities. Today, the topics explored in this debate should have great relevance to the reader more than ever. For many reasons these ideas have particular relevance to a modern organization, including business processes, human relations, organizational structures, and most importantly in an information-based economy, applications of information technology.

One engineering friend said that he could not imagine an engineer who would not want to understand how ideas ...

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