This was a keynote talk given at the Formal Ontology in Information Systems conference in Saarbrücken, Germany in October 2008.
We trace the roots of ontology-drive information systems back to early work in artificial
intelligence and software engineering. We examine the lofty goals of the Knowledge-Based Software Assistant project from the 80s, and pose some questions. Why didn't it work? What do we have today instead? What is on the horizon? We examine two critical ideas in software engineering: raising the level of abstraction, and the use of formal methods. We examine several other key technologies and show how they paved the way for today's ontology-driven information systems (ODIS).
We identify two companies with surprising capabilities that are on the bleeding edge of today's ODIS, and are pointing the way to a bright future. In that future, application development will be opened up to the masses, who will require no computer science background. People will create models in visual environments and the models will be the applications, self-documenting and executing as they are being built. Neither humans nor computers will be writing application code. Most functionality will be created by reusing and combining pre-coded functionality. All application software will be ontology-driven.