What's The Meaning of This?
September 15, 2003 —
(Page 1 of 3)
Allo. Bonjour. Hola. Guten tag. Shalom.
Many of you kind readers, no matter where in the world you are, were able to understand my simple greeting. Yet the greeting is not exactly the same in all the languages I used. Bonjour and guten tag mean "good day," while shalom, allo and hola mean "hello." Semantically and logically, however, we have come to know them as basically the same.
Computer scientists have been working for decades to get machines to understand natural languages, not merely programming languages that don't allow users to express such things as business rules in a more declarative, high-level way. This is part of the great disconnect between business people and techies; the business people speak English, and the techies have to translate that English into something a computer can understand-often a low-level, step-by-step way to complete a task. The margin for error is great; remember the childhood game called Telephone? By the time the message got to the last person, it changed dramatically from the original.
Some tools for creating business rules already allow for the use of English by providing vocabularies and grammars that the system can recognize. The problem with these is that in a practical world, rules writers will step outside of these definitions pretty quickly, and end up spending almost as much time updating the dictionary and grammar as they do writing rules.
Dr. Adrian Walker at Reengineering LLC, a start-up employing two full-time and two part-time employees in Bristol, Conn., is working to remove some of these hurdles. By continuing down a path that was first realized more than 15 years ago with the Internet Business Logic name he copyrighted in 1981, Walker has created a system whereby plain English can be used to invoke data from tables to use in applications as required. Where relational databases were an improvement over navigational databases in the way they represent data, so too, Walker said, is his Internet Business Logic system an improvement over programming languages in the way business rules are represented.