Why is SVG going to be REALLY BIG?

David Dailey


Time and space 1

Jerry Maddox is one of the SVG community's artist friends. Partly at his encouragement, I will lay into my paper large slabs of speculation salted with morsels of hyperbole, for your reading enjoyment and consternation.

Jerry would remind us: 

a) remember that they are graphics, not code, that people see.
b) world art has almost always been vectors: stroke and fill (In the grand scheme of human history bitmaps are an anomaly)

Four big changes in the technology of communication:



Time and space2


Speech is acoustic: sound embedded in time. It is linear. Speech uses anaphora to create non-linear links.


Writing is (in the case of alphabets, syllabaries and ideographic systems) based on linear speech.

For alphabet A={a1, a2, ... , an } and graphics G={G1, G2, ...Gk} (where A intersect G is empty) we may represent a typical text as

Other forms of communication:


Let vocabulary V={w1, w2, ... , wn }, including graphics G and anaphora H={h1, h2, ...hk} (where G and H are subsets of V). An example of anaphora might include H={this, that, which, he, her}

hypertext seen as a graph with links

Figure 2. The hypertext -- words and pix in sequence with references.

Sign language (e.g., ASL): gestural, visual (2 + dimensional) and temporal


SVG: visual (2 + dimensional) and temporal

bandwidth, (see Edward Tufte's comments on the visual system that purportedly handles about 10 megabits per second. http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0002NC  

dimensionality,  -- embedding on sphere (K4 and not K5) vs torus (K7 but not K8) and game of asteroids.

Time and space3


Here are some experiments in writing I performed 37 years ago. 

1972 Experiment A: mapping semantic inferential content 1972 Experiment B: mapping semantic inferential content

What thoughts can be drawn in the plane without crossing lines?

It was trivial to demonstrate that ideas were non-linear (from a graph theoretic perspective). The mere facts that

  1. every language appears to use anaphora (pronouns and other pointers to previously developed concepts)

  2. many languages wrestle with the issue of scope of quantification and scope of negation inventing such constructs as doo' | da (Navajo), ne | pas (French) and mana | ču (Quechua) (I recall from Mongolian class that that language did the same thing)

  3. ambiguity for referents persists in sentences like these due to Lakoff:

    The city council refused to give the women a permit to demonstrate because they X-ed Y.
    When X and Y are "feared violence" then "they" refers to the city council But when X and Y are "advocated revolution" then "they" refers to the women

K4, k5 sphere, k7 k8 torus. Navigability. Marvin Minsky and the frozen ocean. All sincere theories of cognition are correct else we could not think them.

complete graph on five nodesComplete graph on 7 nodes

K5 and K7: Complete graphs on five and nodes (toroidal but nonplanar)

Hence, I concluded in 1972 as shown in the following diagram that fortunately, language will soon be written as a graph in N dimensions, doughnuts and all.

Time and space 4


Theorem:  given a monolingual dictionary, the computational task of finding a smallest set of semantic primitives is NP-complete.    (Dailey, 1986)

example: didapper: a dabchick or other small grebe.

A set of semantic primitives rich enough to encode the following, and axiomatized (with a predicate calculus) to support a basic inference engine is probably sufficient for most of human expression (at least that containing no molecules).

Human languages are more similar than differernt.

72 (plus or minus) semantic primitives worked perfectly well for discussing 

time and space5

The following are offered as examples of the sort of semantic primitives I have in mind

Necessary and sufficient human semantics

the fundamental metaphor is closer 

does not suffer from millenia of bad assumptions about how to communicate thoughts (speech, text, hypertext, HTML).

very little legacy content.  we are free to do it right for once.

Time and space 6

Doing it write requires the following capabilities (many of which SVG already contains):