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Re: [ontolog-forum] A "common basis"

To: Bill Andersen <andersen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 4 May 2007 01:54:12 -0700
Message-id: <p0623096ac260a0d87ca4@[]>
>Hi Pat,
>See below.
>On May 2, 2007, at 18:35 , Pat Hayes wrote:
>>>Chris, John, et al:
>>>I think that a perfectly feasible "common basis" for
>>>interoperability and integration of multiple ontologies is a foundation
>>>ontology structured as a "conceptual defining vocabulary" that contains
>>>all the concepts that are necessary and sufficient to specify the
>>>meanings of any other more specialized concepts, using subclasses,
>>>relations, functions, and axioms all of whose constant terms are either
>>>(1) contained in the foundation ontology or (2) themselves specifiable
>>>(recursively, if necessary) by terms in the foundation ontology.
>>As you know, Patrick, I don't think this is even remotely feasible.
>>Whats more, it isn't necessary, even if it were feasible.
>As with engineering of all software artifacts, 
>the term 'necessary' doesn't really come into 
>play, except when we're bumping into the limits 
>of mathematics or physics, and that's not what's 
>happening here. There are, of course, many ways 
>to get to some specified effects. What those 
>effects ought to be with respect to ontologies, 
>and in what areas of application, is a topic 
>that receives little attention, aside from vague 
>promises.    (01)

Not sure what we are arguing about here, but to 
clarify, I meant "it isn't needed in order to 
achieve interoperability"    (02)

>>'foundation ontology', described below, will have different points of
>>view enclosed in 'contexts',and will be freely expandable, and will
>>have ontology-style definitions of concepts in terms of other
>>concepts, or more generally inferential connections between concepts.
>You must mean "between names used in the 
>languages of the ontologies so developed". 
>Surely you don't mean "concepts".    (03)

Well, we are all here using the c-word to mean 
names. But I think it isn't unreasonable to use 
"concepts" for the things denoted by the names.    (04)

>>This thing, under another name, is already being constructed. It is
>>called the Semantic Web. The ontologies in the SW are your
>No they aren't. There is no notion whatsoever of 
>"context" at least with respect to the current 
>slate of logical tools available for the 
>Semantic Web, unless you mean by that term 
>something broader that would include languages 
>like IKL that do have something to say about 
>contexts.    (05)

No, wait. I used scare quotes deliberately. Im 
not saying that OWL is a context logic. But 
Patrick's use of this word 'context' seems to 
refer to little more than a named subtheory, and 
that is *exactly* what a SWeb ontology is. The 
URI/URIref naming conventions supply the 
"context" structure: not that it amounts to much, 
but it is there.    (06)

>  So, what are we to do with the current W3C 
>offerings if we want to make good on this 
>context talk? It is and will be for the 
>foreseeable future left unspecified. One should 
>expect chaos, not some kind of order that will 
>achieve the aforementioned effects, to ensue. 
>What reason is there to think otherwise?    (07)

Because all the economic pressures on both writes 
and users of SWeb ontologies are towards mutual 
comprehension and mutual consistency, rather than 
towards chaos. The key point is that ontologies 
on the SWeb are public. They can be read, copied 
and modified by writers of other ontologies.    (08)

>>and the entire SWeb, a world-wide distributed entity
>>always under construction and never finished, is your 'foundation
>That is pure stipulation. One might call it more 
>accurately as the Central Dogma of the Semantic 
>Web.    (09)

Sure, it is a vision rather than a reality; just 
like Patrick's hypothetical Grand Unified 
Ontology. Want to bet which of them will happen 
first?    (010)

>>But the main difference is that, rather than being built
>>by a committee and located in and controlled by a single institution,
>>it is being built by anyone who wants to get involved, is located
>>nowhere and everywhere, and is owned by nobody.
>Again, we're back to effects. Who, other than 
>teenagers on myspace, is going to trust anything 
>produced by such a process?    (011)

I would trust it a lot more than most of the 
sources I use. Why should I trust an ontology 
written by a committee? Why should I trust an 
ontology owned by, say, Mitre corporation, or 
indeed any profit-making agency?    (012)

>Do you want this kind of thing, for example, 
>undergirding the software that runs your 
>intelligent highway or local nuclear power plant?    (013)

Sure, as long as proper tests are made in such 
obviously safety-critical domains. But ask the 
other question: would I trust an ontology written 
by a consortium of travel agents to book my 
holiday for me? Would I trust an ontology written 
and controlled by the RIAA to govern my usage of 
my music files?    (014)

>I think one of the most destructive lines of 
>debate with respect to computational ontology 
>has to do with the centralized/upper-level vs 
>laissez-faire/semantic-web approaches. Neither 
>approach has emerged the winner, either 
>analytically, empirically, or any other way. 
>Centralized development isn't possible for 
>large-scale application, but nor is the 
>million-monkeys approach. Who says there is no 
>via media? Why is it, for example, that an 
>approach based on upper ontology  which we all 
>know is likely not to be the final word on what 
>there is  might nevertheless prove more 
>effective at what we want ontology-based 
>software systems to be doing for us?    (015)

Because any upper ontology (if it doing anything 
at all) amounts to the imposition of a particular 
ontological strategy, and if we know anything it 
is that different such strategies are is use, and 
will likely always be in use, and are strongly 
defended by those who use them. Rather than 
declare one of them the winner and all the others 
the losers, we should be trying to find ways to 
map between them, as we did in IKRIS. We know we 
can do this for many of the classical ontological 
quarrels.    (016)

Pat    (017)

>       .bill
>Bill Andersen (<mailto:andersen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>andersen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx)
>Chief Scientist
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