Tim Berners-Lee Date: 2013-03-06, last change: $Date: 2013-03-07 03:23:39 $ Status: This was an interview Harry Halpin and Alexandre Monnin made with me. to appear in "Philosophical Engineering", a collected set of writings from the PhiloWeb workshops published by Wiley-Blackwell press. Up to Design Issues Philosophical Engineering and Ownerhip of URIs Harry Halpin: How did the idea of philosophical engineering come about? Tim Berners-Lee: The phrase came about when we were originally discussing the idea of Web Science, and I was tickled by the fact that when you study and take exams in physics at Oxford, formally the subject is actually not physics but experimental philosophy. I thought that was quite an interesting way of thinking about physics, a kind of philosophy that one does by “dropping things and seeing if they continue to drop” – in other words, “thinking about the stuff you do by dropping things.” Then it came up again when trying to explain to people that when we design Web protocols, we actually get a chance to define and create the way a new world works. It struck me what we ended up calling “Web Science” could have been called “philosophical engineering,” because effectively when you create a protocol you get the right to “play God” and define what words mean. You can define a philosophy, to define a new world. So when people use your system, when they run the protocol, to a certain extent they have to leave their previous philosophy at the door and they have to join in and agree they will work with your system. So you can build systems, worlds, which have different properties. That's exciting, and a source of responsibility as well.