Encapsulating Knowledge in Decision Services

THE DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC of the human species is language: the ability to communicate information between individuals using symbols agreed upon as part of a culture. Once our brains had evolved to be capable of symbolic gesture and speech, they were also capable of transmitting and preserving human knowledge in other symbolic forms. Human culture expanded to include saga and song, written language, pictures, maps, and diagrams. Culturally preserved knowledge had evolutionary value because it allowed one individual's successful behavior to be adopted by other individuals without those individuals ever meeting.

Even when the rewards are not survival or reproduction, knowledge continues to have practical or economic value because it enables people to do things. Using a map, I can find my way to places I have never visited before, which have been visited by the cartographers. Until very recently all such recorded knowledge was strictly a means of communication between two people: One person had to formulate the knowledge and another had to interpret it. Recently, however, new ways to represent knowledge have been invented that can dispense with one or both of these human agents:

  • Some forms of knowledge do not need to be interpreted by a human being but can be executed directly by a machine. Using its machine-executable knowledge of the road network, your GPS navigation system can automatically find the best route to your ...

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