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Re: [ontolog-forum] Search engine for the ontology

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2008 14:28:31 -0600
Message-id: <p06230901c3eb7670e6e7@[]>
At 3:17 PM -0500 2/27/08, John F. Sowa wrote:

That property is only true of toy ontologies that are unable
to deal with problems that anyone would actually pay to solve:

AA> The uniqueness of ontology is that it is a single concept
 > scheme uniformly covering all things in the world.

Cyc is the largest formal ontology that has ever been implemented,
and after the first five years (from 1984 to 1989), they had to
supplement their uniform upper-level ontology with a large and
growing number of "microtheories" for the various specializations.

Just to emphasize: in Cyc, 'microtheories' are now a central methodology, precisely because there is no "single concept scheme covering all things", but instead, concepts must be 'tuned' or 'fitted' to particular contexts or tasks or topics. The concept of nucleus for example has a lot in common between biology, atomic physics, astronomy and linguistics, but all these fields use the term with different exact meanings and emphases. Simply distinguishing bio-nucleus from physics-nucleus, etc., as distinct concepts, loses the commonality; treating them all as instances of one super-concept leads to confusion and inconsistency.

After 20 years (around 2004), they had defined an ontology with
about 600,000 categories, 2 million axioms, and 6,000 microtheories.

Then there was the HALO project, sponsored by Bill Gates's former
buddy, Paul Allen.  For that project, three groups -- Cycorp,
OntoPrise, and SRI International -- were given the task of
representing some pages from a chemistry textbook in their
favorite notation and solving some problems that would be
typical of a college freshman course in chemistry.

Despite the fact that Cyc had a much larger knowledge base than
the other two groups, it did not help them.  The average cost
for all three groups to translate the text into their notation
was about the same -- $10,000 per page.  The average score on
the exam was about 40% to 47% correct, and Cyc had the lowest

We (a university-based consortium led by SRI) also beat Cyc in the RKF competition, largely because we used a graphical human interface rather then a text-based one. Natural language, it turns out, is a lousy way to communicate with a computer.


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