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Re: [ontolog-forum] {Disarmed} Re: OWL and lack of identifiers

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Steve Newcomb <srn@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: 22 Apr 2007 09:02:43 -0400
Message-id: <87bqhgr28c.fsf@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
"John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx> writes:    (01)

> Steve,
> I agree to a certain extent:
> SN> I guess I'm saying that, at bottom, all solutions are
>   > ad hoc solutions; no one solution is the Holy Grail.
> But there are patterns and invariants that enable translations
> from one ad hoc solution to another.  Those invariants are the
> landmarks or signposts that make it possible to find order
> in the chaos.    (02)

As for me, I doubt that there's anything invariant about the soup, and
I suspect that whatever may appear to be invariant cannot be relied
upon to remain so.  (Except of course in the simplest cases.)    (03)

Over two decades of experience with SGML, much of it in government
work, tells me that the internal inconsistency of data resources
increases more or less as a function of their semantic richness and
their sizes.  My own attitude is that electronic data processing can
greatly aid, but is no substitute for, human alertness, or for
sensitivity to the context from which any given datum has emanated.    (04)

I'd always rather have a human being tell me what some expression
means, than any machine.  (For my money, machines don't have a clue.)    (05)

>  > Benefits accrue to us when we face up to the fact that
>  > endlessly diverse ad-hockeries are a fact of life, and
>  > one that we'd better learn to deal with efficiently.
> I also agree, and that is one of the major themes of my
> article on knowledge soup:
>     http://www.jfsowa.com/pubs/challenge.pdf
>     The Challenge of Knowledge Soup
> Logic is the discipline that has been searching for those
> underlying invariants.  But those invariants are often
> obscured by variations in the notations and terminologies.    (06)

I agree that the search is vitally important, now more than ever, and
I admire your contributions to that search.  The only thing I object
to about your position is its apparent implication that there is some
higher Truth or Absoluteness (note capital letters indicating numinous
significance) in any logic or logical system -- even if it's Logic.    (07)

Knowledge management is primarily a *humanistic* endeavor.  Every
logic is man-made, period.  As a model, it works exactly as well as it
works, and it fails exactly where it fails.    (08)

The very character of knowledge itself is highly variable.  I once
heard you say that data that aren't processable by logic are useless.
I'm still reacting to that statement.  (You see how impressionable I
am when you speak!)  In fact, it all depends on what you mean by
"logic".  Indeed, if we ignore all data that don't strictly conform to
some particular "logic", whatever we might mean by that term, very
little remains.  Give me a rule, and I'll show you an exception.    (09)

I think it's better to recognize that there's no Logic; there's only
Culture.  True, some cultures are more sophisticated and powerful than
others, and no culture is more sophisticated or powerful than the
worldwide one that pursues scientific advancement.  But it would be
the very height of hubris to assume that nothing else has any value.
Ironically, Darwin's scientific insights have led Science itself to
the opposite conclusion: that all kinds of variability, including
variations with no immediate or obvious utility, are in fact essential
to survival.      (010)

In my own gut, at least, I feel quite confident that cultural
diversity has enormous survival value.  The stones that the builders
cast aside will, at least occasionally, turn out to be the
cornerstones, or maybe even the keystones.  Science cannot explain
everything, and when we think it will, we engage in naive idolatry.    (011)

> That is why we have been developing the ISO standard for
> Common Logic (which is currently in the FDIS stage):
>     http://www.common-logic.org
>     Common Logic Standard
> The body of the standard uses an abstract syntax to avoid
> endorsing any specific notation.  The annexes specify three
> very different concrete dialects that capture the full CL
> semantics.  But many other versions of logic (including
> RDF(S) and OWL) can be treated as dialects of Common Logic
> that express a subset of the semantics.
> I won't claim that CL is the final solution, but it serves
> as one example of how to find order in the chaos.  I also
> admit that there is a lot more work to be done.    (012)

John, in fact we apparently agree about everything important.  (:^)    (013)

-- Steve    (014)

Steven R. Newcomb, Consultant
Coolheads Consulting    (015)

Co-editor, Topic Maps International Standard (ISO/IEC 13250)
Co-editor, draft Topic Maps -- Reference Model (ISO/IEC 13250-5)    (016)

http://www.coolheads.com    (017)

direct: +1 540 951 9773
main:   +1 540 951 9774
fax:    +1 540 951 9775    (018)

208 Highview Drive
Blacksburg, Virginia 24060 USA    (019)

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letter is not addressed and who are reading it in the absence of a
specific search warrant: In keeping with the publicly-confessed
criminal conduct of the Bush administration, and with the
irresponsible actions of the pusillanimous and corrupt 109th Congress,
you are co-conspiring to subvert the Constitution that you are sworn
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expect to suffer criminal sanctions in the future, when the Executive
Branch of the government of the United States of America once again
demonstrates respect for the rule of law.  I do not envy you for
having to make this difficult choice, but I urge you to make it
wisely.)    (020)

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