[WikiEN-l] good example of overuse of {{fact}}

charles.r.matthews at ntlworld.com charles.r.matthews at ntlworld.com
Tue Oct 17 09:13:11 UTC 2006

Phil Sandifer wrote

> On Oct 16, 2006, at 6:12 PM, jayjg wrote:

> > People keep claiming that it's hard to source "obvious facts";
> > however, in practice that's almost never the case. Obvious facts are
> > generally extremely easy to source.
> A better and more important issue is that it's a waste of time to  
> source obvious facts.

I agree that there are clearly better things to do.

If you apply for a patent, you may be opposed either with some 'prior art', or for 'obviousness', in other words that someone 'skilled in the art' could have come up with the idea, no sweat. These are different matters: i.e. a professional searcher for prior art may not come up with all the things that are obvious inventive steps. 

I think this fact of legal life ought to give some pause to claims that the obvious is always documented. The underlying reason has often been discussed, for example in relation to AI. Combining things in pairs, even, throws up so many combinations. Consider the cab driver's problem, let us say in London. Cabbies are supposed to know routes from A to B, each chosen from thousands of locations. That's millions of routes, and _clearly_ to the expert cabbie (they pass an exam on this stuff) it is not because those are individually documented. The same principle may well apply to, oh, organic chemistry syntheses; the point is that it is in the nature of combinations. 

I hear plenty of non-expert opinions on 'knowledge' here, but also some pretty basic naivety on these matters.


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