timothy falconer's semantic weblog
Big Fractal Tangle

the great divide

Tonight, while much of the world celebrates Christmas Eve, that magical time when we all remember “true meaning”, spontaneously helping our neighbors like Scrooge after his big conversion, I’m reminded instead about the divisions between us, the physical and conceptual neighborhoods that make it possible for us to disregard each other easily.

I guess it’s no one’s fault. Our brains are barraged with the demands of the day. We need to find shortcuts, remembered mnemonics, to help us sift through our choices so we know how to feel about stuff. Without intending it, we slip on our “us and them” attitudes. I mean, come on, if we had to re-evaluate our allegiances every time we made a choice, we’d never get anything done.

“Here’s to us, and those like us. Never mind the others, the tree-hugging, capitalist, chauvenist, commie, hetero, pepsi-drinking, welfare moms. You see, I’m different from you, so I don’t really care that your village has polluted drinking water. My life has nothing to do with ethnic cleansing and state-sanctioned rape. These woods aren’t mine, but they’re a good place to dump my old refrigerator. That glass on the sidewalk? Someone else’s problem. Drive faster through this bad part of town. Those people just don’t care about their surroundings.”

Damn near every problem stems from some dividing line or other. Solutions arrive when a small group steps across the line and says, “We’re all one. Let’s help. It’s our problem too.”

Yeah, I know. Some of you are saying, “Two touchy-feely posts in a row. What does this have to do with RDF and ontologies?”

Again: the real legacy of the Semantic Web will be its effect on our shared social perspective. With these new tools, these new eyes, our children will learn to see interconnections, not divisions. They’ll learn links, not lines.

Pretty cool, don’t you think? Quite a gift we’re giving.

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