Published in Decision Support Systems in Agent-Based Intelligent Environments, January 1, 2005, pages 3-34. RESU85-USTC-Nov07.
The purpose of this chapter is to trace the evolution of intelligent software from data-centric applications that essentially encapsulate their data environment to ontology-based applications with automated reasoning capabilities. It is argued that a distinction may be drawn between human intelligence and component capabilities within a more general definition of intelligence, and that such component capabilities can be embedded in computer software. The primary vehicle in the quest for intelligent software has been the gradual recognition of the central role played by data and information, rather than the logic and functionality of the application. The three milestones in this evolution have been: the separation of data management from the internal domain of the application; the development of standard data exchange protocols such as the Extensible Markup Language (XML), which allows machine interpretable structure and meaning to be added to data exchange packages; and, the ability to build information models that are rich in relationships and are thereby capable of supporting the automated reasoning capabilities of software agents.
To assess the relative capabilities of software systems during their evolutionary path over the past 50 years the author utilizes an evaluation framework consisting of six categories, with appropriate features or capabilities under each category serving as a set of evaluation criteria. Designed to assess the degree to which a software application or system is capable of performing intelligent functions, the particular features or capabilities in each category are arranged in ascending order of sophistication.
The chapter concludes with a brief description of the vision of a Semantic Web environment in which ontology-based Web services with intelligent capabilities are able to discover each other, and individually or in self-configured groups perform useful tasks. This vision formed an integral part of the concept of a collaborative network of readily accessible information nodes proposed by Berners- Lee in the late 1980s and known today, in its initial incarnation, as the World-Wide Web. Judging by the periodic pronouncements of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the results of research in progress at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) led by Berners-Lee, and elsewhere, it would appear that the original vision is not only feasible but also imminently realizable. The capabilities of an experimental proof-of-concept system featuring semantic Web services that was demonstrated by a group of researchers from the author’s research center during a 2002 United States Office of Naval Research Workshop is described as an example of such an intelligent decision support environment.