Advisory Board

James Douma

Talking about Ray Kurzweil’s Future, James Douma said

This seems to be a pretty common response of experts to the idea of the technological singularity. The general feeling that technology overall is moving amazingly fast and getting faster combined with a resistance to the idea of rapid advances in their own field. Its hard to avoid being conservative about your own field when you see the problems so clearly and technology sometimes seems to creep along while you struggle with hard problems. Also, when it comes to your own field you expect to be able to imagine the revolution in detail whereas you can avoid that expectation in fields which you know relatively less about.
But the experts are often very wrong about how their own field is progressing. I think Kurzweil brings up that “sequencing the genome” example a lot because it is easy to explain and, in part, because it shows how wrong the experts can be. A few years before the genome sequence was complete, when 90% of the work was done but only 10% of the genome was complete, the majority of experts were not expecting it to complete on time, and yet it completed ahead of time.
There are a lot of examples of this phenomenon. You wonder why smart, informed people are systematically wrong about the progress of their own field, and systematically underestimate what can be done in the long term.

James is cofounder and Chief Software Architect of Nitobi Software. He is an experienced software and Internet application developer with a background in information system design. While he is fluent in many technologies, his current focuses are OWL, SPARQL, SOA, AJAX and Flex component development. He also has experience in artificial intelligence and information science. A computer science and applied mathematics background from York University is where he began his career in software development.
James has been a software developer and systems analyst for many leading companies including the Royal Bank, Sun Microsystems and Sierra Systems. He has been the lead developer and system architect in most of Nitobi’s (formerly eBusiness Applications) key client software development projects including projects for NASA, Fidelity Investments, and USAID. His work is pushing the envelope for web based software applications. Over the past several years, he has had a large influence on the emergence and development of AJAX technologies. He particularly focuses on client side processing and data caching to enhance interoperability, reliability and efficiency of web based applications as well as research into the application of semantic web technologies to enterprise information systems development.
He is a member of the Ontolog Discussion Group and has participated in a number of discussions on the future direction of ontology as well as other AI related projects. Past projects have combined ontology, machine learning and description logic reasoning to build systems for automated user interface generation, web service interface mapping and schema inference. He has coauthored a paper titled “A System for Adaptive Web Service Discovery using Semantic Matching”. He has also been an active member of the XML community and has served on the board of the Vancouver XML Group. In addition, he is on the Interoperability Committee for the Open Ajax Alliance where he works to establish interoperability standards for applications using AJAX technologies.
Currently James is active in research, software development projects and in running the company he cofounded, Nitobi Software which is a leading provider of AJAX technologies.