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Text, Information, Knowledge and the Evolving Record of Humanity (20 Mar 2006)
Consider a sentence such as "the current price of tea in China is 35 cents per pound." In a library with millions of books we might find many statements of the above form that we could capture today with relatively simple rules: rather than pursuing every variation of a statement, programs can wait, like predators at a water hole, for their informational prey to reappear in a standard linguistic pattern. We can make inferences from sentences such as "NAME1 born at NAME2 in DATE" that NAME1 more likely than not represents a person and NAME2 a place and then convert the statement into a proposition about a person born at a given place and time. The changing price of tea in China, pedestrian birth and death dates, or other basic statements may not be truth and beauty in the Phaedrus, but a digital library that could plot the prices of various commodities in different markets over time, plot the various lifetimes of individuals, or extract and classify many events would be very useful. Services such as the Syllabus Finder1 and H-Bot2 (which Dan Cohen describes elsewhere in this issue of D-Lib) represent examples of information extraction already in use.3 H-Bot, in particular, builds on our evolving ability to extract information from very large corpora such as the billions of web pages available through the Google API.
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