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Re: [ontolog-forum] Levels

To: "Deborah MacPherson" <debmacp@xxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2007 10:58:32 -0600
Message-id: <p06230902c200ca8da1b2@[]>
>Hi Pat,    (01)

Hi Debbie, thanks for your detailed reply. This 
conversation is interesting to me because, in 
part, we seem to be coming from such very 
different backgrounds and use terminology so 
differently. I suspect this may be rather typical 
of communication in this forum, so it might be 
useful to pursue it in more detail. Please 
understand this response as an attempt to further 
useful communication.    (02)

>By driven I mean: causing pieces of information 
>to be interpreted and prioritized a certain way. 
>The meaning of a word for example is driven by 
>the context of a sentence or paragraph.    (03)

Hmm. I understand the particular example, but I'm 
not sure how far you intend it to be generalized 
(and your use of very general language of 
'information' and 'context' suggests that you do 
intend it to be understood very generally).    (04)

Also, Im not sure what you mean by a 'piece of 
information'. In the world I come from, 
information itself isn't interpreted: rather, 
*signs* (or systems of signs) get interpreted, 
and the result of this interpretation can be 
referred to as the information conveyed by the 
sign. This is the 'semiotic' usage that I am 
familiar with. I suspect that what you mean is 
best conveyed to someone who speaks my language 
by saying that 'driven' refers to the process by 
which a sign is interpreted (using its 'context' 
- another very scruffy word that has many 
possible meanings, but lets leave that issue 
aside) as conveying some information, e.g. as 
being part of a proposition that is asserted, or 
perhaps part of a map or diagram or model that is 
claimed to represent some reality. Do I have that 
more or less right?    (05)

>By operate I mean: once information is in a set, 
>these are the sequences showing how it works 
>together.    (06)

My word, that *is* hard to understand! 
(information in a set? That does not make any 
sense in my language :-) But continuing the above 
translation guess into semiotic/semantic 
language, this could be what we refer to broadly 
as 'syntax': that is, the overall patterns into 
which signs are arranged so as to convey larger 
meanings. (I say 'pattern' because although in 
language these are sequential,  they need not be, 
e.g. consider diagrams of various kinds; and even 
some human natural (written) languages use 
non-sequential structures.)    (07)

>You read a sentence from the first word to the 
>last word, not picking and choosing your 
>favorites.    (08)

That suggests the syntax interpretation also. But...    (09)

>  A story operates independently from a dictionary.    (010)

...that doesn't, I have to admit. On the the other hand...    (011)

>Both are complete on their own but the reader 
>and the writer of either are following rules to 
>convey and understand what the letters and words 
>mean because of the ways they operate together.    (012)

...that is almost a definition of syntax :-)    (013)

BTW, your terminology of "drive" and "operate" 
grates on me slightly because this sounds 
essentially dynamic, process-like; whereas the 
semiotic/semantic framework, while it can be 
applied to process descriptions and the like, is 
not itself essentially dynamic or 
process-oriented. Which makes me wonder if my 
translation is omitting some essential aspect of 
your meaning (?)    (014)

---------    (015)

>Yes, I was thinking there were many examples in 
>biology and chemistry and maybe the right 
>comparison is moving from biology to chemistry 
>to physics and so on. System to system to system 
>each with their own drivers and operators. 
>Disturb the chemistry of an organic entity, 
>eventually the biology and physics "above" and 
>"below" will get screwed up too.    (016)

Re. the previous comment, these are all of course 
dynamic systems. I wonder, would language itself 
provide a 'static' example? (The lexical context 
of a word in a sentence determining its local 
meaning.)    (017)

>What triggered my desire for a comparison in 
>nature while reading the exchange between Chris 
>Menzel and yourself was the premise of having an 
>ontology for a particular university, then 
>overlaying (actually the word was "importing"    (018)

Right. (You know that this word has a technical 
meaning in ontology languages? It means (roughly) 
that the importer ontology re-asserts the content 
of the imported one.)    (019)

>) an ontology for all universities to avoid 
>reinventing the wheel every time a university 
>needs to establish the rules they use to drive 
>(contextualize) and operate (process) their 
>information. Over time I assume the overall 
>university ontology would be modular and broad 
>to be able to plug into a wide range of 
>situations, the details are defined at the 
>bottom and simplified in the overall.    (020)

That is the general idea, yes. Another way to put 
it is that the 'upper' level provides the 
background assumptions that all uses of the 
vocabulary must agree to. In practice, what this 
amounts to is often a collection of guidelines on 
how to use the conceptual vocabulary so as to 
avoid disturbing the metaphysical intuitions of 
the designer of  the 'upper' level, for example 
by insisting on distinguishing 'continuants' from 
'occurrents', or 'properties' from 'roles' from 
'tropes', rather than any actual substantial 
agreement about the way that the world itself is 
organized.    (021)

>A similar interplay happens in construction 
>documents for architecture. For example, a state 
>Department of Transportation, Education, Health 
>or any organization has a set of General 
>Conditions that all projects, contractors, and 
>architects/engineers are required to meet. My 
>objective is to create a similar set of 
>conditions for organizations like museums to 
>design and contract ontologies.    (022)

Hmm, a kind of Building Code for ontologies? Do 
you see this as itself being an ontology? If so, 
how does it relate to the ontologies it 
constrains? Does it describe them, or is it a 
compulsory import for them? That is, in the 
latter case, does it, er, define some concepts 
they *must* use?    (023)

>Next in the world of architecture and contracts, 
>there are special conditions unique to a project 
>simply to qualify the participants, set forth 
>limitations on the work, and briefly describe 
>related work that may be planned for later. The 
>next level is what we call Division 1 governing 
>the all the work results of a specific project, 
>then the specifications of each area of work. 
>Its like a pyramid where the documents on top 
>are purposefully written to rarely change - this 
>is what Architect means, this is the review 
>process. Four or even five levels down we still 
>have not talked about particular products yet. 
>If the project is designing and constructing an 
>ontology rather than a building, the exact 
>tools, languages, and databases may be laid out 
>very generally at this point, but to me, some of 
>these ontology discussions are going too far 
>into the details too early.    (024)

Well, to be fair, some of us spend our 
professional time in these details. Using your 
analogy, we aren't all architects. Some of us are 
builders, some are building contractors, and some 
of us are brick manufacturers.    (025)

But more seriously, it isn't at all clear to me 
that a process well-suited to architectural 
specification is automatically well-suited to 
ontology construction. For one thing, 
architecture is really a very particular topic, 
whereas ontologies can have any subject-matter at 
all (and also the set of purposes or uses for 
ontologies is still not completely clear, and may 
well grow as the ideas as disseminated.)    (026)

>ALL of the instructions and obligations from the 
>beginning (a study group that saw the need for a 
>new school to be built) to the realization of a 
>project (the carpenter with a hammer in his 
>hand) are stated in only one place, one time 
>without being repeated up and down the chain 
>because then there are going to be mistakes and 
>conflicts. When instructions are repeated on 
>different levels, the context is reestablished 
>and you have to start talking about which 
>instructions take precedence when in fact they 
>are all related. The upper levels need to stay 
>the same, changing them takes a committee and 
>maybe even laws, the lower levels change all the 
>time unique to every project - they are precise 
>but still driven by the blockier, less flexible, 
>bigger pictures above.    (027)

Right, I follow this. What you are describing 
here is a very elaborate and well-defined kind of 
planning. Im not at all sure however that we know 
(yet) how best to plan a large ontology. For 
example, should there be agreement first on an 
'upper-level' ontology? This is often assumed to 
be needed, and there are proponents of many rival 
UpperOntologies out there, but Im quite 
unconvinced that such agreement is necessary or 
even desirable, and that a much more useful 
approach is to focus first on ways that different 
'upper' frameworks (essentially, formalized 
metaphysical positions) can be mapped into and 
from one another, and then allow each 'lower' 
ontology writer to use their favorite. Others 
will no doubt disagree: but my point here is to 
suggest that we simply do not have a stable 
enough overall methodology yet, to justify the 
adoption of an architectural-style 
planning/review process.    (028)

>After all, all of the people involved from the 
>bottom to the top need to produce good work so a 
>school is properly built in the place where it 
>is needed. Or the right ontology is developed to 
>solve our new problems with explaining and 
>understanding the world.
>I imagine a small university's ontology is more 
>detailed than an overall university ontology 
>that could be imported.    (029)

Probably, yes.    (030)

>The individual university's ontology may be 
>comprised of students names, backgrounds, and 
>academic performance - the overall university 
>ontology states which information should be 
>tracked in the first place. By importing the 
>instructions and requirements from above, you 
>could see where a variable may have been left 
>out that helped other universities. It does not 
>matter if the other universities are bigger or 
>smaller, more or less expensive, state run or 
>private - all universities have a mission to 
>improve student performance. This runs all the 
>way through across every lower level ontology, 
>its one of the few elements an upper level 
>ontology would specify.
>Ontologies are invented and constructed for a 
>variety of reasons but they need to be 
>interchangeable and connected in ways we do not 
>observe with other things we make. I think 
>concepts like importing ontologies also need to 
>assign values or factors that let a person or 
>computer recognize right away....95% of the 
>instructions and words of this ontology have not 
>changed for 10 years, it  originated in 25 
>different places - it must be an upper level 
>ontology.    (031)

This is exactly the kind of information that 
should be derivable from the pattern of Web 
links. The fact the SWeb ontologies are Web 
resources is important for exactly this kind of 
social reasoning. The Web reflects the actual 
social reality better than any attempt to codify 
or record it explicitly: just ask the folks at 
Google.    (032)

>The pace of change and distribution pattern tell 
>its story as much as the ontology itself can 
>once you get into it. The more ontologies that 
>are developed, the more they need to be 
>distinguished from each other because of the 
>ways users drive and operate them.    (033)

Agreed, but see the previous comment.    (034)

Pat    (035)

>On 2/18/07, Pat Hayes <<mailto:phayes@xxxxxxx>phayes@xxxxxxx> wrote:
>  >I am wishing for an example in nature where a
>>subpart can be driven by larger whole yet both
>>can operate independently.
>Can you say more about what you mean by 'driven' and 'operate' ?
>>  Not the fractal parts to whole relationship
>>necessarily, more along the lines of what
>>natural systems, not shapes, are super detailed
>>and work fairly well at their own level then let
>>the modular upper version plug in and make them
>>more efficient?
>Let me see if I understand. You want a case where
>there is a 'small' thing which operates
>successfully in some sense, but also when it is
>incorporated into some 'larger' thing as a part,
>it then still does what it does, but now as part
>of this larger system's activity?  I am sure
>there are many examples of this in biology; the
>mitochondria in animal cells might be one. Or do
>you mean, that when incorporated into the larger
>thing, the small thing can do what it did before,
>but do it 'better', eg perhaps more efficiently?
>Examples of this can be found in chemical
>reactions , eg where the larger thing supplies a
>catalyst for a reaction, or changes the
>temperature or pressure so as to facilitate a
>BTW, I would be interested to know what
>connection you see between this topic and the one
>that Chris Menzel and I were discussing in this
>>On 2/12/07, Christopher Menzel
> >
>>On Feb 12, 2007, at 12:12 PM, Pat Hayes wrote:
>>>>  You're right that import statements should not be considered part of
>>>>  an ontology.I agree it's the imported axioms that are part of the
>>>>  ontology.
>>>  Wait. Of course the imports statements are part
>>>  of the ontology. What are you guys talking about?
>>*If* ontologies are logical theories, then it seems to me that this
>>confuses a mechanism for saying what (some of) the axioms of an
>>ontology are with the ontology.Suppose I'm writing my ontology for
>>TAMU faculty and admin again, and you've got a nice higher-level
>>ontology for universities over there at IHMC.My statement "import
>>(reiterate, endorse, whatever) Pat's university ontology" is not part
>>of my ontology; it's a mechanism for saying what my axioms are that
>>makes efficient use of an open network.
>>I'm not dogmatically wedded to the idea that formal ontologies are
>>logical theories of some ilk, but if you're right, and my import
>>statement is literally part of my ontology, then formal ontologies
>>are not (in general) logical theories, and we'd better get clear
>>about the connection between the former and the latter.You seem to
>>be favoring the idea that ontologies are rather more concrete than
>>I'd been thinking.Do you think it would be better to say that a
>>logical theory is only one of several components of an ontology?
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