The Semantic Web, Shirky, and Syllogisms

Clay Shirky wrote an interesting piece on Syllogisms and the Semantic Web in which he asserts that all the people working on the Semantic Web are less intelligent than he is.

The people working on the Semantic Web greatly overestimate the value of deductive reasoning

Let me illustrate why Shirky is more intelligent with a syllogism.

-The people working on the Semantic Web greatly overestimate the value of deductive reasoning

-Clay Shirky does not overestimate the value of deductive reasoning

Therefore, Clay Shirky is smarter than the people working on the Semantic Web

He begins his argument with a question. Just one question,

‘What is the Semantic Web good for’?

Don’t get excited. You don’t get to answer. Shirky is the only person allowed to answer and he answers his own question with,

The simple answer is this: The Semantic Web is a machine for creating syllogisms.

If you don’t agree with his answer, tough. You must assume that premise to continue reading and therefore, you must accept his conclusion.

Any first-year debate school member is taught that you simply cannot accept a premise without challenge or you will be forced to accept the conclusions drawn as a result of that premise.

So, all you fans of the Semantic Web, what is it good for? Or is it just as Shirky says, a large syllogism machine?


  1. Three points if you can tell us who coined the term “syllogismobile” and what it is good for.

  2. DG

    Ya know, while reading that article, I kept thinking that Shirky was typing from an alternate universe. ;) Maybe he was channeling Sprague de Camp.




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