University of Waikato philosophy lecturer Dr Cathy Legg (pictured on right, below) and computer science PhD student Olena Medelyan have taken inspiration from Greek philosopher Aristotle and are applying his theories to the internet.
The pair are collaborating on a project in ontology, a science first proposed by Aristotle more than 2300 years ago that attempts to break the universe down to its most basic components.
That theory is being applied to internet searches to remove superfluous results.
The online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, Legg says, can be viewed as an ontology, as it distinguishes and defines concepts as "articles", and also links them together in informative ways.
Legg’s background in formal ontology includes a previous project called CYC, developed for the US company Cycorp and funded by the US military. Legg and Medelyan decided to find all concepts in CYC and Wikipedia which are equivalent ontologically — in other words, which describe the same thing.
They found more than 50,000, using an automated algorithm, mapping not only concepts that have the same name, but also those that have different names but mean the same thing, for example pest management/pest control or homo sapiens/humans.
Legg and Medelyan say such a large automated ontology alignment is a first for the computing world and it will make it possible to create a "super ontology" combining the developed structure of CYC and the much larger store of information in Wikipedia.
They will present their results at the Chicago AAAI, the annual artificial intelligence conference in July, after which Medelyan will take up an internship with Google in New York.