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[ontolog-forum] MACK basics - 1st instalment

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "Pat Hayes" <phayes@xxxxxxx>
From: "Christopher Spottiswoode" <cms@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2008 08:28:58 +0200
Message-id: <00f701c872c1$21ff1940$0100a8c0@Dev>
Pat,    (01)

Thanks for the nudge, as it is about time I dived in.    (02)

>It might be best, Christopher, to follow the usual practice in such 
>situations, which is to refrain from posting long messages until one 
>actually has the promised future insight ready to show the world. I 
>hope to hear from you when you are in a position to explain what it 
>is that you are going to talk about.
>Pat    (03)

So I shalln't explain what I am going to talk about.  I shall just 
start spelling it out now as it is, which I expect - or hope and 
trust! - will be enough, after a good few more posts and intermingled 
interactions from all of you, for everybody to run with it.    (04)

I have already been insisting on the need for your inputs.  There are 
many very specific points where I shall directly ask questions or make 
requests, but I am sure the most important questions and inputs from 
you will be largely unprompted.  I shall often unexpectedly need you 
to lift my own blinkers.  As Paola has already seen, I might tend to 
want to pull them down again, but - all of you - please keep trying! 
So I now even start the big message with some requests in it too:    (05)

The acronym "MACK" in the subject-line stands for "The Mainstream 
Architecture for Common Knowledge".  The acronym is a bad one, already 
heavy with other uses and unwelcome relatives.  I have experimented 
half-heartedly with T-MACK and TMA.  I quite like the latter one, 
though I fault it for omitting the crucial focus on Common Knowledge. 
At home I still refer to the architecture as "Metaset", which is where 
the "M" in MACK originally came from though it is the name of the 
work-in-progress program which might still become the first 
implementation of the architecture.  As a background activity please 
help find a better acronym, or even a better full name for the 
architecture?  But for the moment at least I can find many useful 
aspects to the full name as it still is, and will bring them out in 
context as we proceed.    (06)

Further background already scattered around my recent posts and older 
pieces is that the single goal (almost even an 'objective function' 
because its many aspects are so pervasively integrated into the design 
and could probably even be given a useful quantitative form) is "to 
help people simplify complexity together."  That high abstraction is 
then embodied into other contexts to become more generally meaningful. 
Meeting that goal, even though in a forever distributed and piecemeal 
fashion (No dictatorship here, by man or digital beast (and I am quite 
happy, Paola, with the ambiguity in that three-letter word)), will 
help us all follow the slogan "Ride The Mainstream!"  That will help 
us all reshape our shared world for the better.  And please note 
again:  I am talking very plain IS/DBMS stuff and attendant rather 
everyday and mainstream philosophy about people's aims and roles, with 
some very basic inferencing, implementable here and now.  It is 
definitely not any reaching for sci-fi or pie-in-the-sky AI or groping 
with hit-and-miss NLP!    (07)

The long-promised key "insight" (Pat's term) rests on a very few 
pillars.  They may not be clear to you immediately, the way I now 
spell them out.  But I am sure that together we'll delineate them 
better for present audiences, and you will all find them, after all, 
to be largely how you already believe things are or should obviously 
be.  I shall definitely not be claiming any specific IP right here. 
All is already in the mainstream, somewhere, and most coding in the 
promised new environment will always remain Open Source.    (08)

Meanwhile, you will at the outset have difficulty seeing the 
implications or meaning of each pillar alone.  You will however 
shortly see how it is consistent with the core design for the pillars 
to need each other for their respective meanings or contributions to 
emerge usefully.  (Warning:  This is the first time I have depicted 
the design as based on these numbered pillars.  So please do feel free 
to seek clarification and help recast the presentation!)    (09)

1.  Some crucial refinements (in the 2nd planned instalment) based on 
present conceptions define a well-formed ontology.  I am proposing to 
call the MACK notion the "Form", being short for "conceptual form". 
Relatives are "abstract system" and "database subschema".  The Form 
helps us shape or cast or inForm experience and thoughts into recorded 
knowledge, but only thanks to how it also caters for all recordable 
but relatively unformed kinds of knowledge too, of which the database 
blob is an easy example.  More broadly (and far more broadly than mere 
blobs, at least since it also involves time dimensions and change in 
general, as we'll see in the next instalment), that is also how the 
architecture caters for John Sowa's ideal of being able to incorporate 
any other approaches into the total picture, and John's "lattice of 
theories" can definitely be part of it.  There is, however, always a 
downside to less Forming canonicalizations:  they cannot avail 
themselves to the same degree of the sharability advantages of 
Formation, as we shall now see in slightly more detail:    (010)

2.  The outcome may be seen as based on an "Application Operating 
System" or AOS sitting on top of the most very basic hardware-managing 
and windowing O/S.  Metaset is aiming to be such an AOS.  At present I 
am coding it only for Microsoft Windows, but it has the 
WIN32_LEAN_AND_MEAN C-compiler flag set and religiously avoids all the 
higher level stuff (except sockets).  Most obviously, Metaset and its 
refinements and successors will displace the present web browser and 
email client from their looming role as (almost...) universal 
front-end for applications.  Even Metaset's predecessors have been 
AOSs in relatively rudimentary ways.  But we shouldn't try to push 
ontologies/Forms to the limit prematurely, and must recognize that in 
many instances ordinary procedural language programming will continue 
to be the preferred way of exploring our needs and possibilities. 
Such coding will of course always have access - often transparently 
automatic - to many AOS components and services.  However, such coding 
must work within the stabilizing more formal (and Formal!) framework. 
Extended beyond what Metaset can currently aim to be and do, that will 
eventually be the basis of satisfactory resolutions for ALL present 
security problems caused by present architectures.  (That is of course 
a heavy claim, but the bitter fruits from the present chaos can be 
said to have been seeded by time-shared systems permitting 
general-purpose programming.)    (011)

3.  It is hopefully evident in the above that the balance between the 
formal and the informal is absolutely key.  That is (or should be...) 
the context of our practice of Ontology in the original broad sense, 
and of course the whole scene is much broader, with many 
epistemological and cognitive science aspects.  Some might even be 
tempted to pronounce that it is all of philosophy.  So, clearly, if I 
am claiming to have found some pragmatic and even immediately 
practical balance amidst all that, I must probably be claiming some 
special insights here!  Well, no, all I have is a couple of images or 
allegories which I at present envisage introducing to you more fully 
in the 3rd instalment (I have already partly mentioned them, partly 
alluded to them, in recent posts).  I shall do so firstly in the hope 
that you will find them useful too and secondly in the expectation 
that they will help explain - and help you adjust! - some of those 
blinkers I still no doubt have.  But they are all part of my present 
conception of The Mainstream, and this is perhaps a good place to 
resume from my definition of it in my first web page from 1996 (now at 
http://jeffsutherland.com/oopsla96/spottisw.html):    (012)

"The Mainstream is the confluence of many interweaving currents of 
people making ever more diverse yet workable knowledge despite the 
infinite complexity of our given underlying reality.    (013)

"That there is a confluence is underlined by ever-increasing 
integration of applications (and interdependence of all human 
activity). That there should be a greater confluence is implicit in 
the undisputed calls for better component reusability and product 
interoperability (and better cooperation between people everywhere). 
That there will indeed be a yet greater confluence to ride is 
indicated by the apparently infinite possibilities in that infinite 
yet evidently humanly-accessible complexity, which point compellingly 
at infinite humanly-meaningful opportunities in Creation."    (014)

The last word in that quote is obviously another red-flag-word, is it 
not, Paola?  But I chose to risk it here because I think it worthwhile 
to state upfront that I am totally happy to make much of both Creation 
and evolution.  That will emerge quite clearly, I hope, in the next 
two instalments envisaged, even though such concepts can be presented 
as peripheral to the core goal of helping people simplify complexity 
together.    (015)

Right?  So the next planned instalment will be that "fictional topdown 
construction" from an earlier post, or quasi-axiomatic representation, 
of the MACK Form or ontology as this forum knows the concept.  Its 
context is the broad picture as sketched in this 1st instalment.    (016)

Christopher    (017)

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