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Behind the tables and tables of raw data, how does Wolfram Alpha work?

I imagine there are various artificial intelligence mechanisms driving the site but I can't fathom how anyone would put something like this together. Are there any explanations that would help a programmer understand how something like this is created? Does the knowledge base learn on its own or is it taught very specific details in a very organized manner? What kind of structure and language is used to store this type of data?

Obviously, this is a huge question and can't fully be answered here but some of the general concepts would be nice to know so I can build off of them and do my own research.

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When you surf the web, you use various search engines. For example, you ask something to Google, it provides you answers based on what it finds by indexing and ranking the web pages available. You will get links to pages that exist on the web. Those pages though are created by other humans.

Whereas, Wolfram computes the answers to specific questions using its own knowledge databases and algorithms. The language used by Wolfram|Alpha is the Wolfram Language. It is a general multi-paradigm computational language developed by Wolfram Research and is the programming language of the mathematical symbolic computation program Mathematica and the WolframProgramming Cloud.

It is more like a fact-based engine. To answer the questions, it has computational algorithms that have an internal knowledge database. The technologies behind Wolfram Alpha can be divided into four key general areas:

  • a data curation pipeline: Data curation is the organization and integration of data collected from various sources.

  • an algorithmic computation system: Set of instructions for performing computational tasks.

  • a linguistic processing system: This system effortlessly solves three difficult problems:  phonological problem, semantic problem, syntactic problem.

  • an automated presentation system: This system helps in presenting the data that it has fetched from the internal knowledge database.

Wolfram Alpha has large data on stocks and shares. But most data is input through the manual system. The first step comes in choosing sources. There's no general automatic input from the web here: instead, Wolfram Alpha staff work with experts in different domains to decide which sources are the best.

This has produced some magnificent results, the company doing special deals with the owners of proprietary databases that they believe are important, delivering access to information that wasn't previously available online.

Then the data goes through an automated procedure to clean and check it. And after that, it is verified by real-life experts (some on the Wolfram Alpha staff, some outside) to confirm that it all seems reliable to the society.

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