Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Magical Number

I was introduced to the concept of the magical number back in the late 70´s. I heard about it in classes, but only in the XXI century I had the chance of reading the paper.

The idea of this magic number has been used in several areas. I read books in software engineering using the concept to deal with decomposition of modules and in business using the concept to talk about the scope of responsibility for a given manager. In both applications of the concept, the idea is straightforward: avoid the complexity of interactions among parts of a given set. The justification was based on the magical number.

In my work on the usage of natural language in requirements, with the LEL (Language Extended Lexicon) and with Ontology, I became aware of Wordnet, and have been using its on-line version as an on-line dictionary. It helps me a lot, since English is not my native language.

I recently became a user of AdSense for a blog of mine, in Portuguese, that publishes notes on Information Systems.

What all those things do have in common? The answer is Professor George A. Miller.

More amazing yet, is finding out that Professor Peter Naur, in his 2005 Turing Award recipient speech, says the following:
“Communications of the ACM, November 1995, brought an article by the psychologist G. A. Miller: WordNet: A Lexical Database for English, describing a so far unsuccessful project to develop a computer program that supposedly processes natural languages as people do. Miller describes language in terms of words, word senses, and linguistic contexts. By this manner of describing the linguistic activity he gets stuck.”