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Re: language vs. ontology was Re: [ontolog-forum] April 20 session on t

To: "Cassidy, Patrick J." <pcassidy@xxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Patrick Durusau <patrick@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 09 Apr 2006 08:21:48 -0400
Message-id: <4438FC5C.7080007@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat,    (01)

Cassidy, Patrick J. wrote:    (02)

>Re: meaning of symbols -
>Patrick Durusau wrote:
>>>The "meaning" of a symbol is always determined with recourse to
>Not exactly.  The issue of how to "ground" the meanings of symbols is a
>lot more complex than just saying that a person is going to read it
>before any meaning is assigned.  If that were the case, no system could
>ever hope to perform automatic processing, even for something as
>trivial as sending a late-payment notice, without human intervention.
>For automatic processing that has real-world effects, the system is
>"told" the meaning by associating actions with specific states (an "if
>state, then action" rule).  In the case where the ontology has only
>state descriptions, the action rules are typically part of the
>procedural code that uses the ontology, but they could also be part of
>an executable specification.
Let's be clear about the issue to which I was responding.    (03)

Adam had made the claim that:    (04)

> The meaning of the symbols is defined mathematically, and no human 
> interpretation is required to give them meaning.     (05)

My only point was that in the formulation of a system that human beings 
were assigning meaning to the symbols.    (06)

In other words, it is *not* the case that expressing a definition and 
the rules for use of that definition in relation to other definitions 
using mathematics removes human interpretation from the process. It 
starts, always I would argue, with human definition of the symbols. (And 
for that matter continues with human interpretation in the choice of 
precisely defined terms as well as interpretation of the output.)    (07)

Let me be clear: Automated processing is essential to management of 
information flow. And yes, it rests upon mathematically expressed (not 
defined) definitions supplied by people and rules for processing those 
definitions.    (08)

But let's not be distracted by the automated use of those symbols.    (09)

What I see as at issue is whether the world bank, or others, must be 
subjugated to a universal language, such a SUMO, or should have the 
freedom to represent their own languages and rules for automated 
processing.    (010)

Adam indicated yesterday that:    (011)

> The fact that an approach under some broad moniker has failed in the 
> past doesn't have much bearing on our present case I think.    (012)

I just got around to responding this morning and I am curious to learn 
why the failure of prior attempts at creating a universal language has 
no bearing on current attempts.    (013)

The point I was attempting to make about universal languages is that 
they define (through their human authors) symbols in ways that may or 
may not correspond to the views of the same symbols by others. There is, 
in my opinion, no reason to priviledge the definitions by the SUMO 
authors over those of any others.    (014)

Granted those definitions can be used to build an automated system.    (015)

But then an automated system can be built upon any sufficiently defined 
set of symbols and rules for using them together.    (016)

The issue is not whether an automated system can be built, or whether 
mathematics should be use in expressing the definitions, but whether 
some particular group can claim to have captured all that is worth being 
said and that all other expressions are *implicitly disenfranchised*.    (017)

It is the implied claim that "that's the way it is"* that I find deeply 
disturbing about universal language proposals. Perhaps, perhaps not. At 
best such proposals represent "one" way to view and organize information 
about the world. At worse they impose a view on information that may or 
may not (in the view of the users of that information) correspond to 
their view of information about the world.    (018)

*For our younger participants, "that's the way it is (insert date)" was 
the closing line used by Walter Cronkite on the CBS News while he was 
the network anchor.    (019)

Hope you are having a great day!    (020)

Patrick    (021)

>The meaning of "meaning" is a much-debated topic, but properly
>constructed, an automatic system can tell whether or not some set of
>symbols (e.g. words in a sentence) are in fact meaningful, or are
>gibberish - according to whatever set of rules the system is taught,
>including semantic and pragmatic, not just syntactic rules.  If the
>system is able to understand and respond to language with the facility
>of a human, it can be fairly said to have understood the meaning of the
>sentences it responds to properly.  No current system can do that at
>even the level of a six-year-old, but there are systems that do some
>interpretation to a certain extent, and they can be fairly said to have
>understood some part of the meaning.  Meaning isn't usually an
>all-or-nothing measure, but graded.  An expert can usually understand
>more of the meaning of a technical description than a novice can.
>There are various ways to "ground" the meaning of symbols.  One is for
>a symbol-processing system to be able to recognize instances of classes
>in the ontology.  At a simple level, a computer reading a file on a
>disk and tokenizing the sentences and recognizing the legal "words" in
>the file has grasped part of the meaning of that file, a real-life
>physical object.   For a computer to do all the kinds of things
>college-educated people do, a lot more of the meaning has to be
>recognized, but getting to that point is part of our current task, no?
>Those working in robotics have to be very careful to assign the proper
>"meaning" to the symbols their programs use, or the robot fails to do
>its task, in a very visible manner.  Recognizing things in the real
>world and responding appropriately is to me very clear evidence that
>some elements of "meaning" of the input signals have been properly
>interpreted - without a person intervening at any point from receipt of
>the "symbol" (sensor inputs) to response.
>Perhaps you want to argue that any elements of "meaning" that a
>computer may seem to understand must first be put there by people.  Of
>course, machines are artifacts created by people.  (Yawn)  People are
>objects created by evolution.  The fact that it took millions of years
>for humans to develop a way to learn how to assign meaning to their
>linguistic inputs, and takes years for individuals to learn how to
>assign meanings to linguistic inputs, but only seconds or minutes to
>upload a complex cognitive system into a computer, is certainly of
>great significance.  But whether or not a cognitive system can properly
>assign "meaning" to inputs must be judged by whether the system
>responds appropriately to the inputs, according to whatever goal or
>motivational schema that cognitive system is using.  The adequacy of
>the response is a different issue from how the system learned to make
>that response.
>I think it is quite appropriate to say that some existing
>knowledge-based programs can assign some elements of meaning to the
>inputs (symbols) they get, and respond appropriately, without any human
>interpretation of the input.  In most cases, it is nowhere near as much
>meaning as people can currently assign, but "meaning" nevertheless.
>Patrick Cassidy
>MITRE Corporation
>260 Industrial Way
>Eatontown, NJ 07724
>Mail Stop: MNJE
>Phone: 732-578-6340
>Cell: 908-565-4053
>Fax: 732-578-6012
>Email: pcassidy@xxxxxxxxx
>-----Original Message-----
>From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>[mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Patrick
>Sent: Saturday, April 08, 2006 1:01 PM
>To: Adam Pease
>Cc: [ontolog-forum]
>Subject: Re: language vs. ontology was Re: [ontolog-forum] April 20
>session on tagging ontolog content
>Adam Pease wrote:
>>  I think there's a misunderstanding here.  It's not just a question 
>>of precision in the conventional sense.  Of course we try to make our
>>documents and laws precise.  But the meaning of those texts is 
>>determined with recourse to human interpretation.  In a formal 
>>ontology like SUMO, or DOLCE, one could replace all the term names 
>>with arbitrary unique symbols, and an automated deductive system, 
>>following the rules of mathematical logic (in our case, first order 
>>logic) could reach all the same conclusions as it could if those 
>>intelligible labels were present.  The meaning of the symbols is 
>>defined mathematically, and no human interpretation is required to 
>>give them meaning.
>Yes, there is a misunderstanding here.
>defining a mathematical logic between arbitrary unique symbols != 
>defining the meaning of arbitrary unique symbols
>Yes, whatever symbols are substituted, the outcomes of defined 
>operations would be the same.
>That is not the same as defining the "meaning" of a symbol
>The "meaning" of a symbol is always determined with recourse to human 
>interpretation. How else would you explain the use of WordNet
>in SUMO? Of what possible relevance are WordNet entries if the meaning 
>of symbols is being defined mathematically? The answer is that the 
>"meaning" of the symbols is being defined by making references to 
>something outside of the mathematical definition of relationships 
>between the symbols.
>>  That's relevant because it enables one to do things like prove the 
>>absence of contradictions in the use of these terms with an automated
>>system.  In contrast, without such a property, humans have to 
>>determine whether usage of terminological or linguistic based 
>>standards are compliant.  Standards compliance is something I would 
>>think would be relevant to the world bank.
>Not to put too fine a point on it but you seem to be eliding over the 
>fact that the development of SUMO was based upon human interpretation 
>and construction of the rules that can then be automatically applied.
>wasn't simply a matter of putting mathematical rules in a box of
>and shaking it until the result suddenly appeared.
>The compliance the world bank (or any other concern) is interested in
>compliance with their terms, which may or may not use the same rules
>complaince that can be found in SUMO. Yes, logic can prove a lack of 
>contradiction but then so can careful definition of terms and what is
>is not considered to be a conflict.
>Note that I do consider SUMO and similar efforts to be worthwhile. But,
>I don't think that they divorce the meaning of symbols from human 
>interpretation nor are they the best solutions for all cases. As I
>earlier today, we have been down the road of universal languages before
>and none has succeeded to date.
>Hope you are having a great day!
>>At 03:08 AM 4/8/2006, Patrick Durusau wrote:
>>>Adam Pease wrote:
>>>>  For what it's worth, I think there is a common problem surfacing 
>>>>here, that Bill has tried to point out.  Language and ontology are 
>>>>different.  Human language (and any given word in a human language)
>>>>is ambiguous and highly contextual.  Terms in an ontology are not 
>>>>ambiguous (or at least, shouldn't be if they are properly and 
>>>>formally defined).
>>>>  Typically, this has been a problem, because computational 
>>>>linguists have often used linguistic elements as pseudo-logical 
>>>>terms in semantic forms.  Ontology builders often use linguistic 
>>>>elements as proxies for doing a full semantic definition, leaving 
>>>>much of the interpretation embedded in the conventional meaning of 
>>>>the linguistic-based term.
>>>>  The approach we've taken in SUMO is to make this distinction 
>>>>explicit, and to address language and ontology in separate but 
>>>>related products.  SUMO is the formal ontology with terms defined 
>>>>unambiguously in first order logic.  Those terms are related
>>>>semi-formal links to the word senses in Princeton's WordNet.
>>>Language and ontology are different???
>>>Hmmm, well the foundational paper for SUMO states:
>>>"In order to enable continued progress in ecommerce and software 
>>>integration, we must give
>>>computers a common language with a richness that more closely 
>>>approaches that of human
>>>Granted a great deal of effort has gone into making SUMO precise,
>>>the same could be done for any language. It is interesting but not 
>>>persuasive that its terms have been "defined unambigouously in first
>>>order logic." And that is relevant for what reason? Perhaps first 
>>>order logic is not relevant to all the problems faced by the World 
>>>Bank. Recall that the current fascination with first order logic is
>>>repeat of a debate that has ebbed and flowed for many years. Justice
>>>Holmes wrote in the 1890's that the life of the law had been 
>>>experience and not logic. 
>>>In any event, there is no reason to disenfranchise the World Bank 
>>>from representing their language/ontology in favor of using SUMO. 
>>>There have been any number of attempts to produce universal 
>>>languages, LogLang is one of the more recent ones.
>>>There are standards that seek to empower users to define their own 
>>>languages/ontologies and yet remain mappable to others. See, for 
>>>example the Topic Maps Reference Model CD draft at: 
>>>Hope you are having a great day!
>>>Patrick Durusau
>>>Chair, V1 - Text Processing: Office and Publishing Systems Interface
>>>Co-Editor, ISO 13250, Topic Maps -- Reference Model
>>>Member, Text Encoding Initiative Board of Directors, 2003-2005
>>>Topic Maps: Human, not artificial, intelligence at work!
>>>Message Archives: http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/
>>>Shared Files: http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/
>>>Community Wiki: http://ontolog.cim3.net/wiki/ To Post: 
>>Adam Pease
>>http://www.ontologyportal.org - Free ontologies and tools
>    (022)

Patrick Durusau
Chair, V1 - Text Processing: Office and Publishing Systems Interface
Co-Editor, ISO 13250, Topic Maps -- Reference Model
Member, Text Encoding Initiative Board of Directors, 2003-2005    (023)

Topic Maps: Human, not artificial, intelligence at work!     (024)

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