|To:||"Patrick Cassidy" <pat@xxxxxxxxx>|
|Cc:||"[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>|
|From:||Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>|
|Date:||Fri, 7 Mar 2008 12:15:56 -0600|
At 11:41 PM -0500 3/6/08, Patrick Cassidy wrote:
Pat Hayes responded to a post on this thread.
OK, let¹s try to clarify the points that PatH either misunderstood or just disagrees with.
[] First, ³definition²
[PC] > An issue that has occupied some of my attention lately has been the
Ø question of what basic ontological concepts are sufficient to support
Ø accurate communication. I frame the issue as being analogous to the
Ø "defining vocabulary" used by some dictionaries as a controlled vocabulary
Ø with which they define all of their words. For the Longman's, it is around
Ø 2000 words. The analogous question is how many fundamental ontological
Ø elements (types/classes, and relations/functions) are needed to logically
Ø specify the meanings of all other terms used in a reasonably complex domain
Ø (having perhaps 100,000+ terms), to some adequate level of detail?
[PH] > >
> Define "define". If you mean logically define, then the number of defining terms is going to be comparable to the total number of terms. All 'natural kind'
> terms, for example, are definitionally primitive.
When I used ³define² in reference to dictionary definitions, the meaning should be clear, and ample examples are available.
Of course: but we are (or were) talking about ontologies, which are quite different from dictionaries. Ontologies are written in formalisms which have precise semantics. Please tell us what you mean by 'definition' when you use it in THIS context.
For the ³Conceptual defining vocabulary² , the foundation ontology nicknamed thus to emphasize its **analogy** to the linguistic defining vocabulary used in dictionaries, I carefully used the term ³logically specify the meaning² because I am aware that using the term ³define² in an ontology context sets off fire alarms among those who can only interpret that word as meaning ³necessary and sufficient definition².
Despite your rhetorical use of "fire alarm", the fact remains that N&S condition is what is called a 'definition' in logic. If you mean something else, please tell us what you mean precisely enough that we can evaluate what you are saying. After all, you are drawing some very important and far-reaching consequences from this argument, so it is rather important that we be able to evaluate it.
I suppose that calling it a ³Conceptual Defining Vocabulary² may cause a reaction in those who are sensitive to the specialized meaning of ³define² in logic, but I thought that the distinction was clear. Nevertheless, I will continue to use ³conceptual defining vocabulary² because I think it is a useful analogy, even though the ³meanings² of the terms in the ontologies created using the foundation ontology will rarely be specified as necessary and sufficient logical ³definitions².
Stop using scare quotes to mask your own expressive inadequacies. If you cannot tell us what YOU mean by definitions, then your entire argument is just hot air and should be ignored by any responsible engineer.
To ³specify the meaning² of a subtype is to assert the necessary conditions for membership
Thre is no such thing as THE necessary conditions. I presume you mean "some necessary conditions". But this is a very weak constraint indeed. Will ANY facts do?
, for example:
(1) Asserting it as a subtype
(2) Asserting some property or relation not held by other subtypes this could be as simple as being a subtype of another type.
(3) If there are necessary properties or relations not inherited from any of its parent types, they must also be asserted, using terms already in the conceptual defining vocabulary (aka foundation ontology)
(4) If a subtype is precisely the intersection of two parent types, that would be a necessary and sufficient definition. Of course, the parent types may be primitives.
(5) Occasionally, other means of specifying necessary and sufficient conditions will be used.
There are several criteria which I use to decide whether a newly created concept representation is or is not primitive. I have mentioned those before, and won¹t reiterate here.
Pointer? As this notion is so important to your ideas, you really do have a responsibility to set them out clearly so that they can be applied to example cases by others.
[] how much vocabulary do we have in common?
[pc] >> My own suspicion is that the similarity **in the fundamental concepts**
Ø There is quite convincing evidence that this is NOT the case. In particular, human beings seem to
Ø communicate adequately even while the terms they use in the communication are based on
Ø different mental ontologies. This happens so often that it seems to be the norm rather than
Ø the exception; it is part of what makes it so hard for reasonable people to come to agreement
Ø on basic ontological questions (such as whether time is a dimension or not).
This is precisely the point that I dispute, that the communication is based on different ontologies.
Do you have any actual evidence to support your case?
This is worth some discussion. The hypothesis I presented is that the part that **is understood** is based on *exactly* the same ontology, and where the ontologies differ there is misunderstanding. In fact, I can¹t imagine how it can logically be otherwise.
It most certainly can.
Different different interpretation (at least when the parts that are different are part of the interpretation process). But, **please** note that I said that what is similar in people are the **fundamental concepts** - among which are the naïve physics sort of notions that a weighty object will fall if not supported, when near the earth¹s surface.
BUt these are exactly the ones on which people apparently do not have identical ontologies
The point is that there are lots of these, including how people interact with each other, that we learn from experience as we grow up.
HOW? How is it possible for two children in kindergarten to align their mental ontologies? The idea doesn't even make sense: it would require them to be telepathic.
And when we put labels on those common experiences, we have the most basic ontology, which is extended by analogy to less concrete things.
Wow, you slur over an incredible amount of pyschological and psycholinguistic work very casually there. Your sketch seems to be based on a late-19th-century picture of language learning as sticking labels on bundles of experiences. One thing we know about that idea is that it doesn't work.
The exact process by which the analogical extensions are created is a fascinating subject of research, but for the moment I am only concerned with the end result we all have a large (> 1000) body of common concepts for which we have terms that can be understood precisely, when uttered in a familiar context (don¹t get started on that conversational and situational context, OK?). So it appears that you disagree. But on what basis?
Several. First, its clearly impossible to achieve such perfect alignment in practice, an argument based basically on Quine's arguments about indeterminacy of translation. Second, and most important, extended experience of getting groups of people to collaborate in constructing ontologies of common sense shows that differences are revealed very early on. My favorite example, which my friends will have heard more times than they wish to, was a group at Cycorp writing down all the things they could see in the office we were in, and disagreeing heatedly about whether or not a framed picture on a wall was in the office or part of the office. Over an hours intense discussion ensued. The upshot was a gradual dawning that the two people involved had different concepts of room. Two intelligent, native English speakers had grown to adulthood without every noticing that other people had a different mental ontology of rooms.
Funny thing you should mention time and ³dimension² because that is precisely one of the good illustrations of this point. When I did an exercise, creating linguistic (dictionary-style) definitions of 500 words not in the Longman¹s defining vocabulary, the one word I decided that I needed that was not itself in the original vocabulary was ³dimension². They didn¹t need it to define (the way they do their definitions) any of the 65,000 words in the dictionary. Also to the point, 5-year olds who know thousands of words and a lot of naïve physics and naïve sociology will typically not have a clue as to what a ³dimension² is. That is a word we learn in school. At least in my case I am sure I didn¹t have a need for it until I learned some geometry. Ergo, the reason that your disputants couldn¹t agree on whether time is a ³dimension² is because ³dimension² is not one of the fundamental concepts that are lexicalized in the basic vocabulary.
No, that wasn't the reason. In fact most of the discussion is carried on without using that word: I phrased it that way for reasons of brevity. The dispute is the classical debate about continuants vs. occurrents. For many people (Barry Smith being a notable example) this distinction is so evident and stark that they insist on wiring it into their temporal ontologies at a very basic level, and argue that to not do so is to commit a philosophical error. To many others (me, Matthew West and I am pleased to add, A.N.Whitehead) it seems like at most a loose, sometimes useful distinction between things and processes, but nothing fundamental and not a taxonomic distinction; and at least, a distinction to ba actively ignored.
Note that this is not a terminological debate. Of course you won't find terms of art like 'continuant' in Longman's vocabulary; its a specialized term in philosophical ontology. Nevertheless, one finds this ontological disagreement arising over and over again, surfacing in a variety of forms as disagreements over whether objects can have temporal parts, or whether it makes sense to last for a time with having a temporal extent, or whether 'things' are 3-d or 4-d, and so on. Nothing at all to do with Longman's.
It¹s not part of the linguistic defining vocabulary of words we all agree on. It¹s needed for math, and in that context, describing visualizable two or three-dimensional spaces, is probably uncontroversial. When used by analogy to refer to other concepts, I am not surprised that terminology disputes can arise.
We are talking past each other. Im not interested in terminological disputes. Im talking about disagreements about the logical/conceptual structure of rival ontologies.
Of course, words differ in their meaning depending on context, and that will screw up any but the most carefully planned experiments. People who have no clue as to what an ³ontology² is communicate quite well. in discussing accuracy of linguistic communication, we are talking about the implied ontologies people use in communicating, not the logic-based systems that computational ontologists create.
You are however assuming that these 'implied ontologies' are themselves logic-based. (If you deny this, please explain what you mean by an 'inference' when talking of brains.)
So with respect to your fascinating comment:
>> the terms they use in the communication are based on different mental ontologies.
Just which terms are based on ³different ontologies²?? How did the researchers extract these ³ontologies²?
I believe the exact technique is proprietary (Cyc made me sign a NDA :-), but it involves a feedback process of close interviewing and comparing the results with what formal reasoners extract from the assertions. It is really just conventional 'knowledge extraction' but backed up with formal reasoners rather than expert systems.
How did they distinguish different *ontologies* from different interpretations of *word sense*?
The two topics are closely related, of course. The ontologies typically have to represent much finer distinctions of meaning than are exhibited in any dictionary. A well-known examples is Cyc's catalog of the various sense of 'cover'. Also, the ontologies often require concepts that have no corresponding word, and may indeed be quite hard to even express in English.
This is interesting. References??
If we can find the terms that differ, that could provide us with clues as to what words are not in the common basic vocabulary.
[] Relative speed of brain and computer
[PC] >> The reasoning is something like this: if the
[PH] > There is no evidence whatever that the brain is capable of this. In fact, there near-conclusive evidence
> that the human brain is incapable of quite simple logical inferences without external
> support (such as drawing a diagram or writing a formula). In particular, people - even
> with logical training - consistently make systematic errors when given
> simple modus tollens reasoning tasks, with confidences in the 90% range.
First, note that I said ***if*** the brain does as much computation. It¹s true, I think it does more, but of course not in a linear binary manner. Second, and more importantly, I did *not* say that the brain does **conscious and sequential** modus ponens inferencing of the type we do with our logic formalisms. It does its inferencing by massively parallel signal processing.
That is irrelevant. Logic isn't inherently conscious and sequential. Large theorem proving engines also use massively parallel hardware. We have, in fact, no real idea how the brain does inferences, or even if it really does them at all in any meaningful sense. "Signal processing" is just word-salad.
With >10**11 neurons, each with > 1000 connections to other neurons, firing at multiple times per second, it hardly seems like a bold assertion to imagine that it will accomplish at least the FOL equivalent of 1 million inferences per second.
I think it is pure, and really do mean pure, fantasy.
The visual system processes images
No, it doesn't. What leaves the retina up the optic nerve is already no longer an image, and there aren't any images in the visual cortex. (There are 'image maps', but that just means that the brain uses neural proximity to encode local retinal proximity, which one might expect from a neural architecture.)
multiple times per second to a level of detail that our fastest computers cannot yet mimic. When a baseball batter sees a ball coming at him for a few tenths of a second and starts swinging, just how inference-equivalents do you think it would take to process the image, calculate the proper swing, and send the signals to the proper muscles?
You are making an old fallacy here, that the human perceptual/motor system processes information like a 1960s computer or a 1940s gun-aiming system would. First, the batter isnt 'processing the image', he is focussed sharply on a limited but highly informative set of cues in the stance and motion of the pitcher and the ball. BTW, its interesting that fielders can turn and run in the right direction and speed without seeing the strike at all: you can black out their vision just before the bat hits the ball, and they already know which way the ball is travelling and approximately how fast. Second, neither the batter nor the fielder needs to compute the entire trajectory of the ball: they just need to get it inside some broad parameters. What needed is qualitative reasoning rather than detailed numerical simulation.
Less than 300,000? Then you should be able to write a program to do that really easily, at 2 gigahertz.
With the right hardware support, Im sure I could. Robots which play killer table-tennis have been built with such specialized vision systems.
[] How close are the ontologies of two different people
[PC] >> A similarity of 99.9% in two different fundamental
[PH] > Look, this HAS to be nonsensical. If this really were true, how could human
beings EVER succeed in communicating?
Because our basic ontologies are in fact closer than that.
And how did they get that way? Its not in our DNA, for sure: there isn't room.
[PH} > There is no way you and I could come to a logically secure agreement
> on 1000 axioms even if we had months to do it in and had nothing else to do.
> But children learn natural language at a rate of around 20 new words per day around
> the ages of 4-6 years old, pretty much all by themselves.
Talk about nonsense. If a child learned language by itself, why don¹t the feral children speak the native language of their area fluently?
I meant, without adult intervention. If you think this is nonsense, learn something about sociolinguistics and the distinction between pidgin and creole languages. A new 'native' language can evolve in a single generation: the kids really do invent it themselves from talking to one another. None of their parents speak it.
Yes, children learn first largely by pointing to instances, but when a young child visits a zoo and points to a tiger and says ³pussy cat² we know that her internal definition of Felidae has not yet reached the level of detail of an adult. The internal meanings of words do get refined as people have more experience of the world and learn more about the language.
First, in talking about the shared common ontology expressed in language, I am discussing the kind of basic notions people use in general communication, and in particular when trying to explain things clearly to one another.
So am I.
These words are associated with their meanings by experience in context, not by discussions among opinionated academics.
Your anti-intellectualism is almost palpable, but it stands you in poor stead when taking part in such opinionated discussions (like this one).
The intended meanings of the words people use when they are trying to be clear are almost always understood properly
In a sense that may be true, but that sense does not require them to be mapped into identical mental ontologies. I suspect this is where you make your basic mistake, by assuming that it does.
because the words are chosen to minimize the potential for misinterpretation the speaker knows how the listener will interpret those words. The issue remains, when I ask you to explain the meaning of something, how could I possibly understand the answer unless you used words whose meanings we both agree on?
Again, in a sense this is true, but that sense of 'agree on meaning' doesn't entail the impossibly high standard of possessing identical ontologies. It only requires that we draw conclusions which we each express in the same words. The guy who thought a room was a hollow space in an architects specification and the woman who thought it was a decorated, inhabitable interior space can get by almost all the time using the English word 'room' to one another and each understanding it their own way and each drawing conclusions that differ in unspoken ways that do not matter enough to clarify under normal conditions. It is only when they need to agree the point where they are willing to have their statements set in ontological stone, that the divergences suddenly become apparent. And it is notable in both this and the temporal/continuant case, that people find it extremely hard to 'think the other way', to see the other 'point of view' (as we often say). It much easier to attribute a disagreement over words to a casual factual disagreement or a temporary idiosyncracy or some other harmless explanation, than it is to delve into the real sources.
Yet that happens every day many times a day to almost everyone. By age 5 or 6, children are capable of learning by being told. They have a good part of the basic defining vocabulary by that point. I suspect that the basic vocabulary isn¹t near its adult level until the teens.
Can you and me agree on an ontology? Well, you are, let us say, contentious, but I still believe that we could come to agreement on a lot more than 1000 axioms, provide that both of us had the time to discuss it and neither of us insists on throwing out something that the other proposes on any grounds other than a logical inconsistency with other parts of the ontology, or a fatal vagueness that makes it impossible to relate one to the other.
This is a common belief. Get two reasonable people together and choose a topic they both know something (but not too much) about, and they will just come to agree on the facts, and then they can just write them down, and voila, an ontology! This was what Doug Lenat had in mind when he began Cyc. Guess what: it DOESNT WORK. They can agree on just about everything as two people speaking English, and they STILL can disagree, and sharply so, when they try to write down what they know in a precise formalism. It happens again and again: anyone who has tried to do knowledge extraction, especially in a group setting, knows this from their first experience. And its not because they are having to wrestle with nasty gnarly logic notations: the same thing occurs when people are constructing concept maps, for example, with the smoothest graphical human-oriented GUIs that anyone can make. The point is that ordinary English conversation never gets conceptually deep: it doesn't need to, and English (NL in general) hasn't evolved to do conceptual analysis (which is probably why philosophy is so wordy see http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/stovehelp.html).
The biggest reason people disagree on ontologies (when they take the time to actually argue the points, and ignoring the most common source of disagreement different use of terms) are either due to some insistence on only one means of expressing a concept, even though logically consistent alternatives may be preferred by others
BUt why do you think that people do prefer one way rather than another? And 'prefer' is hardly adequate to describe some of the strength of the disagreements involved. Ive had NSF grant applications rejected by reviewers because I was using a mistaken (in their opinion) ontological framework. Words like 'incomprehensible', 'incoherent' and so on get used.
or simple personal preference. Many differences revolve around different theories of certain physical objects or processes. Those can be represented with logical consistency by categorizing them as alternative theories (Newton, Einstein), each useful in certain situations, neither necessarily expressing the fundamental structure of (whatever).
Thats a weak get-out if we are trying to find (or claiming the existence of) a single common ontology. Its a bit like having a dictionary with words from a whole lot of languages in it, and calling it the new Esperanto.
You yourself have expressed the opinion that the differences among existing ontologies are smaller than they are generally considered to be
Yes, but that position is itself rejected by many of the protagonists. So for example, my upper ontology of spatiotemporal entities would be inconsistent with DOLCE by being too permissive (it would allow the categories of continuant and occurrent to overlap)
, and logical consistency can be demonstrated by bridging axioms among different ways of expressing the same idea. If we allow logically consistent ways to express the same concept, or include slight variations on a concept, agreement will be much easier. In the SUMO project, one of the problems was that Adam and Ian took a minimalist view of the upper ontology. They wanted to include only one way of representing things in the world. In part, they had to produce a deliverable in a specified time frame, which forced them to avoid extended discussion. In addition, their concern, as I interpreted it, was that any redundancy would eventually result in an intractable complexity of reasoning.
If that is what they really thought, they should have talked to Cycorp about it.
But that doesn¹t mean that what they had in the ontology was in any sense *wrong*. In some cases, it just didn¹t satisfy the *preferences* of others. If they had adopted the tactic of putting in whatever anyone wanted, properly related to the other parts, it may have had a wider acceptance.
How would it have retained consistency?
The lack of time and funding for wider participation was, I believe, also a major problem.
Do an experiment. Go to the Longman dictionary site:
. . . and look at some of the definitions that they give for words you select. (Don¹t worry too much about whether the definitions actually give a good mental picture of the meaning of the word in all its nuance and detail - they are designed to be simple, for learners of English as a second language). The question is, do you think that there are ambiguities in the defining words that make you uncertain as to what they intend by those definitions?
I know the answer without looking: Yes, of course there are such ambiguities. Almost every word in English is multiply ambiguous. Tell me what 'on' means.
If you find any case where you think that you don¹t properly understand the meanings of the words they use, let us know which ones.
[] how do native speakers learn to agree?
[[PC]] >> We all know that people differ in assumptions and beliefs, and yet we do
[PH] > Because the assumptions and beliefs themselves are irrelevant to the communication:
> all that matters is that we come to agreement on the beliefs we EXPRESS to one another.
(PC I thought that¹s what the next part of the paragraph was saying)
[PC] >> Well, it happens probably because we **know** that we have different
certain fundamental set of knowledge in common, and only rely on that basic
Look, actual 'inner ontology' beliefs - even if they exist - are very hard to access. We don't say them to one another directly: we may not be able to even articulate most of them. We use words, which have hugely under-determined meanings and are used for all sorts of social purposes (I can't find the reference now, but its been reliable estimated from continuous recordings of individual's speech that over half of what we say to one another is content-free, basically social grooming.) So we almost never know what other people's beliefs really are, in fact. At best, we might know, or guess reliably, that they are such as to produce certain linguistic behavior, though even that is highly indeterminate (people, especially kids, tend not to go around pointing at things and saying their names encouragingly).
[PH] No, that doesn't work. First, people don't know this.
[PC] Oh, come on. We all learn at an early age that people believe different religions, and even different politics.
We don't know that we have different notions of 'room' or 'in' or inconsistent beliefs about what it means to sit still and do nothing. In fact, I bet that you don't even believe this :-)
Everyone knows that many other people are not experts in the field we are experts in. We encounter differences of opinion as soon as we can talk. When a specialist tries to explain something to a non-specialist, s/he doesn¹t usually use technical jargon (unless s/he is oblivious to the fact that it is jargon). I don¹t understand this objection. How would you succinctly describe the Gricean conversational maxims?
Dictionaries and Grice are irrelevant here. We aren't talking about WORDS, but about ONTOLOGIES. Its not the same game.
[PH] Second, how is agreement on this vital common 'core' achieved?
[PC] By growing up in an environment where the basic words are used consistently to refer to the same common experiences that every person has, regardless of where we grow up.
BUt most of those words DONT refer to experiences; and we DONT have sufficiently common experiences. I knew what a sandstorm was before I'd ever seen a desert.
We don¹t get together around a table to agree on the basic words. We absorb them by living in an environment where they are used consistently in the same sense, in a particular situation. We need to see them used in a common linguistic environment to begin to grasp the meaning.
To understand the points above, recall that I am talking about the basic vocabulary shared by most native speakers of a language, not the technical words that we learn on special topics even something so fundamental-seeming as ³dimension² or ³identity² (also not in LDOCE defining vocabulary). There are plenty of those common words, and plenty more of the specialized ones that can be defined (dictionary definition) using the common ones, though in some cases a picture makes understanding a lot easier.
Im talking about this as well. Remember, I started this game doing naive physics.
When building a foundation ontology to serve as a Conceptual Defining Vocabulary, we will of course create abstractions that are not lexicalized in the linguistic defining vocabulary, in order to analyze the more common concepts into their more fundamental component parts.
Another early fallacy, by the way (the idea that concepts are assemblages of 'parts').
This presents an opportunity/risk for different ways of analyzing the structure of common basic concepts like ³event¹. But when the most fundamental components of meaning are extracted and represented, the different ways that ontologists may prefer to represent the same thing can all be represented with the most basic concepts, and the relation between those different ways of viewing the same thing can be precisely specified. I am aware that merely saying this will not convince anyone.
Its been done (Cyc) and the results can be examined. Impressive as Cyc is, I don't think it is encouraging for your line of argument.
It requires a project to actually test the hypothesis. That was also a subject of a previous posting. I wish that the IKRIS project had continued I think it would have produced some important data related to this hypothesis.
From: Pat Hayes [mailto:phayes@xxxxxxx]
At 8:00 AM -0500 3/6/08, Patrick Cassidy wrote:
There is quite convincing evidence that this is NOT the case. In particular, human beings seem to communicate adequately even while the terms they use in the communication are based on different mental ontologies. This happens so often that it seems to be the norm rather than the exception; it is part of what makes it so hard for reasonable people to come to agreement on basic ontological questions (such as whether time is a dimension or not).
There is no evidence whatever that the brain is capable of this. In fact, there near-conclusive evidence that the human brain is incapable of quite simple logical inferences without external support (such as drawing a diagram or writing a formula). In particular, people - even with logical training - consistently make systematic errors when given simple modus tollens reasoning tasks, with confidences in the 90% range.
Look, this HAS to be nonsensical. If this really were true, how could human beings EVER succeed in communicating? There is no way you and I could come to a logically secure agreement on 1000 axioms even if we had months to do it in and had nothing else to do. But children learn natural language at a rate of around 20 new words per day around the ages of 4-6 years old, pretty much all by themselves.
Because the assumptions and beliefs themselves are irrelevant to the communication: all that matters is that we come to agreement on the beliefs we EXPRESS to one another.
No, that doesn't work. First, people don't know this. Second, how is agreement on this vital common 'core' achieved?
Define "define". If you mean logically define, then the number of defining terms is going to be comparable to the total number of terms. All 'natural kind' terms, for example, are definitionally primitive.
Most ontology languages don't even support definitions. Why are you so focused on definitions which usually don't, and often can't, exist? And which if they did exist would be largely functionally irrelevant in any case?
See above. My guess is that most terms we use, both the communicate with and to speak with, have no definitions and do not need them. We eliminated definitions from KIF because they caused only harm and provided no functionality.
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