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

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2008 22:19:05 -0500
Message-id: <47C62829.70701@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Azamat,    (01)

There are a great many people who have interesting ideas about
ontology.  But until any large ontology has been tested on a
significant number of major applications, I have no faith in
its consistency, adequacy, and extensibility.    (02)

> Now look at the CYC upper level ontology. It allows some hybrid thing named 
> 'a partially intangible' thing, a hybrid of abstract, notional, intangible 
> and concrete, physical, tangible. As the instances of individuals, along 
> with the physical objects named spatial and temporal things, we meet here 
> the so-called intangible individuals that encompass time intervals, 
> attribute values, and mathematical objects as relations, as well as 
> situations and events. Only sets and collections are admitted as purely 
> mathematical things. And many other strange things.    (03)

I have criticized those features of the Cyc upper ontology since I
first began to study it about 18 years ago.  I have discussed them
with Doug Lenat and his colleagues many times over the years.  During
that time, they have made many changes, and they have made strong
arguments for the features you criticize.  I have not been fully
convinced by their arguments, but I must admit that their choices
cannot be so easily dismissed as you have claimed.    (04)

Over the years, Lenat has hired many outstanding researchers in logic,
linguistics, philosophy, artificial intelligence, and related areas.
There are other good people working at top-rated institutions around
the world, but on the whole, I would rate the Cyc group as one of the
best, if not the best of its kind, in the world.  I believe that the
Cyc work stands head and shoulders ahead of the overwhelming majority
of proposals I have seen.  (To avoid endless argument, I'll avoid
mentioning any others.)    (05)

But as I have said, no ontology, not even Cyc, has  demonstrated
that it is adequate to support all the claims that have been made
for an ontology.  For example, see    (06)

    The Challenge of Knowledge Soup    (07)

 > Real world knowledge applications ask for the unified representation
 > of the world, whatever you like to name it, global ontology, standard
 > ontology, etc.    (08)

You have made that claim repeatedly, but there is *zero* evidence
in its favor.  If you look at the entire history of mathematics
and science, there is no single foundation for any of the subjects.
Whitehead & Russell made a good stab at it.  The Bourbaki published
many volumes of books.  But most practicing mathematicians today
consider foundational studies to be irrelevant to their daily work.    (09)

The state of physics is much worse.  See _The Road to Reality_ by
Roger Penrose, for a very good overview.  And every other field
of science is far more chaotic than math & physics.  When you
go to the social sciences, economics, philosophy, business, etc.,
there is no such thing as an extended chain of deductive reasoning
that could stand up to any kind of empirical test.  A unified
foundation for those fields would be ludicrous, and if anybody
tried to enforce any such foundation, it would be disastrous.    (010)

John    (011)

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