Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thought Networking (from Primal Fusion)

This may be unknown to anyone outside Waterloo, but yesterday a local startup (Primal Fusion) which was in stealth mode for over 3 years talked about what they are doing for the first time. It was interesting to watch the understated local hype since it was run by Yvan Couture, who had succesfully sold his startup to Agfa for a good profit and is also quite active in the community. The only reason I was interested was because I had listened to a talk by Yvan recently at UW. He seemed like a genuine and trustworthy guy which is rather rare in business nowadays.

The core idea behind the company is related to thought networking. They hope to define what it is and be the leader for a new market category. The simple example given was to go from the approach of searching for something to have the required information delivered to you once you have defined your thoughts. Their goal is to capture your thoughts and represent them as semantic networks. After this, these semantic networks representing your thoughts can now be linked to the semantic networks built by the company using information in the web like new sources, wikipedia etc thus enriching your original thoughts. Finally, since your thoughts are captured instead of a static profile as in the case of a social networking site your thoughts can act as a proxy for yourself for frameworks like software agents. Sounds cool!

Finally my personal thoughts with the limited information I had (didn't get invited to private beta yet). It is a cool idea to be able to capture my thoughts online and have them act on my behalf, maybe you will chat to my thoughts next time on Second life. But, there are two key challenges faced by such an effort and I didn't get a good answer for either. It is difficult to capture anything but simple thoughts as there would always be assumptions. Semantic networks doesn't quite solve that problem. The second issue the classic problem with similar AI based systems. The system is a black box which does the magic and links your thoughts to come up with decisions on your behalf. But, if you cannot describe the mechanism of how the system thought about it there would be a trust problem for humans in a world of software agents. The lack of trust might be ok if you just come up with some news articles or travel recommendations for me.
The company is probably betting itself on web 3.0 where semantic networks are expected to replace today's web. If the market does pick up, then they could be selling the servers for businesses to host the internal thought networks, they could also lead the ecommerce market place with software agents conducting business for you and custom ad delivery. But, there is a lot of potential and 'if's at this point and I'd expect the product & offering to morph signficantly based on user feedback in the future before they succeed. Here is wishing success to another Waterloo startup...