Whatever happened to Cyc?

From: Carl Feynman (carlf@shore.net)
Date: Sat Apr 28 2001 - 23:36:00 MDT

Does anyone have some kind of inside information about what happened to
Cyc? The project clearly failed massively to achieve its original
goals, but they won't admit it and say what went wrong. I've been to
the website of the corporation that is theoretically selling it
(cyc.com) and it's full of upbeat propaganda about how wonderful Cyc is,
and how it'll be real AI any year now, and we can sell it to you now,
but we won't tell you what it does. There are also technical papers
there, none more recent than 1998, and none giving any hint that
anything was less than hunkydory.

It would be very good for the world to publicly disclose what went
wrong. Right now any attempt at building real AI gets the response "Oh
yeah? Why isn't this one going to fail like Cyc?" The failure of Cyc
casts a large diffuse cloud of gloom over the entire field. Disclosing
what happened would at least sharpen the edges of the cloud, and perhaps
permit future projects to steer around it.

But I imagine some combination of Cycorp's desire to make money, and
Doug Lenat's ego, prevents the acknowledgement and analysis of what went

If any of you have anything to contribute, it would be interesting to
hear what you know. I hope someone can say "Carl, you dummy! Lenat's
paper 'Why Cyc does not appear to work' was on the cover of last month's
issue of CACM!"

I found a page (http://www.robotwisdom.com/ai/cycresources.html) which
has a section of critiques of Cyc. They seem to be, variously, reports
of Cyc not working, and philosophical attacks on Lenat's ideas. Nothing
that's really on target.


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