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Re: [ontolog-forum] Current Semantic Web Layer Cake

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Kathryn Blackmond Laskey <klaskey@xxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 03 Aug 2007 10:28:59 -0400
Message-id: <p06110445c2d8e6d9e854@[]>
>...people begin with a compelling interest
>in some phenomenon, and they keep their eyes on prizing out some 
>explanation...people will naturally turn to formal and
>mathematical models of the theoretical constructs of 
>interest....they will have been talking about sets and functions
>and relations (oh my), or categories and morphisms and functors 
>(OMG)...none of this very modern model of mediate reprsentation is 
>to pose a terminal distraction from the intitial phenomenon of interest.    (01)

Absolutely!    (02)

Formal models enable engineering to take place.  They allow people to 
communicate precisely about a phenomenon in which they have a 
compelling interest.  They enable other people to understand exactly 
what is being said about the phenomenon of interest.  They enable 
automated reasoning engines to process descriptions of the phenomenon 
of interest to derive logical consequences of the descriptions that 
were not immediately obvious to those who formulated the 
descriptions.  Sometimes this identifies weaknesses in the 
descriptions that can be repaired to yield improved descriptions. 
Other times, the consequences of the descriptions elicit great 
surprise and consternation, but when checked against the world, they 
turn out to be correct!  Historically, this has been one of the most 
powerful features of the scienfific method. One constructs a precise 
formal theory of a phenomenon.  The formal theory explains empirical 
observations that have been obtained, but also entails some 
highly-counter-intuitive consequeces that -- amazingly -- turn out 
upon investigation to be correct!    (03)

There are people who care more about formal models per se than they 
do about the phenomena being modeled.  Such people tend to become 
pure mathematicians or logicians.    (04)

There are people who care about the phenomenon and dislike 
mathematics and logic.  Because they find mathematics difficult and 
unpleasant, they tend to balk at the intellectual effort required to 
apply math and logic to the phenomena in which they have an intrinsic 
interest.  However, when they encounter a truly gifted teacher who 
can explain the relevance, they usually do come to understand why 
formal models are necessary and important.    (05)

There also are people who have an affinity both for the formal models 
and for some particular phenomenon to which formal models can be 
applied. Such people are the ones who make the breakthrough advances.    (06)

None of this is intended to disparage in any way other modes of 
inquiry and understanding, such as analogy, informal case studies, 
experiential learning, and the like.  Formal models are not the ONLY 
way to understand a phenomenon. They do not replace other ways of 
thinking about a phenomenon.  Nevertheless, they can be extremely 
useful. And they are essential for engineering and information 
technology.    (07)

Kathy    (08)

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