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Re: [ontolog-forum] Summary on language and ontology

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Patrick Durusau <patrick@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 12 Apr 2006 06:02:14 -0400
Message-id: <443CD026.1010806@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Adrian,    (01)

Internet Business Logic wrote:    (02)

> Adam, Patrick, All --
> Yes, indeed, quite a lot of meaning is in the relations (=>, ->, &, 
> or...) between atomic items in formal notations.
> But there's more, much more!
Err, I was trying to understand Adam's position, not necessarily endorse 
it. ;-)    (03)

BTW, your paper makes much of the need for "human-friendly sentences" 
but that isn't really a fair criticism of formal ontologies or other 
approaches. (Having written my share of human unfriendly prose and 
syntax I feel compelled to defend formal ontologies a bit.)    (04)

As was noted in KIF 3.0, there was no intention that KIF be used as a 
language for human users to compose ontologies. It certainly could be 
used that way but there was no requirement that it be used in that manner.    (05)

By analogy, PostScript and PDF are pretty user unfriendly as well, if 
you want to write them by hand, yet users manage to produce documents 
using them everyday.    (06)

If your argument that widespread use of formal ontologies or other 
methods will require better interfaces for the average user, I don't 
think you will find much disagreement on this list or elsewhere. But, 
and it is an important but, unless the underlying principles which are 
used by such an interface can be specified and discussed with precision, 
then the results of any interface are not going to be particularly useful.    (07)

> To see this, consider slides 14-17, 35-43, and finally slide 52 of
> These slides argue that, if we limit "meaning" to technical notations 
> (combinations of symbols like =>, ->, &, or..., RDF, URIs...), then 
> there is no grounding in the world outside the computer. That in turn 
> severely limits the usefulness of the "meanings" for real world tasks.
As I said above, part of your complaint (and it is a valid one) is about 
user interfaces and not the notations.    (08)

BTW, limiting "meaning" (an accusation of a limitation of a formal 
notation) and the grounding problem are different problems. Granted, 
given a limited enough notation I concede that it would prevent solving 
the grounding problem but your paper doesn't not make that case. True 
enough, all the things you say about formal notations being difficult 
for the average user to use are true, but that is not the same as 
proving a limitation in terms of what the formal notation can say.    (09)

In other words, to prove your point about the grounding problem you 
would have to show:    (010)

1. An expression limitation of the formal notation, and    (011)

2. That the limitation prevents "grounding" in the world outside of 
computers.*    (012)

*Note that 2 presumes proof of a solution to the grounding problem and 
that a particular notation does not support that solution due to a lack 
of expressiveness.    (013)

> Sure, we all know and love our succinct logic and programming 
> notations, but they were invented before Von Neumann, and they 
> deliberately leave out the pragmatics of natural language.
I am not sure what you mean by the "pragmatics of natural language?" 
Granted that logics and programming notations are more limited than 
natural languages but then they never pretended to be natural languages.    (014)

BTW, historically speaking, there have been a number of logics 
"invented" post von Neumann.    (015)

> That said, full natural language understanding is of course the 
> "AI-complete problem [1]". However, there is a minimalist approach 
> that appears to work, and that does document executably the things 
> that English sentences mean to people. It's in the implemented system 
> online at www.reengineeringllc.com, and shared use of the system to 
> write and run examples via a browser is free. The system functions as 
> a kind of Wiki for executable English content, and there are already 
> many ontological and other examples.
By "minimalist" approach do you mean entering rules that provide an 
English language interface?    (016)

Note that the system relying upon external entry of information and 
rules for processing is in part the definition of the grounding problem. 
A pocket calculator neither knows nor cares about the "grounding" of the 
number system in the real world. It is simply following instructions and 
data entered externally. How precise or imprecise the data may be really 
has no impact on the grounding problem.    (017)

Hope you are having a great day!    (018)

Patrick    (019)

> Thanks in advance for comments.
> -- Adrian Walker
> [1] A reference to NP-completeness, the key open problem for nearly 
> all of complexity theory.
>    (020)

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    (021)

Topic Maps: Human, not artificial, intelligence at work!     (022)

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