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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontology similarity and accurate communication

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2008 15:57:16 -0500
Message-id: <47D843AC.4040404@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Matthew, Pat, and Pat,    (01)

I'd like to comment on various points the three of you have made
in several different notes, but not necessarily in the same order
in which they have been stated.    (02)

MW> ... just encouraging an unlimited number of ontologies and
 > saying we will map between them, is perhaps where we are headed
 > at the moment, but it is an expensive direction to take. My best
 > hope at the moment is to encourage convergence onto a limited
 > number of ontologies - say 10 or so. They would have clearly
 > stated foundations where the differences would be known and
 > understood, and mappings could be provided.    (03)

There are several related points:    (04)

  1. I agree that we are headed toward (or already at) a collection
     of many ontologies, which have different foundations.    (05)

  2. My usual response to anyone who suggests a number like "10 or so"
     is that it's an inadequate approximation to infinity and that it
     won't be possible to limit the number in a non-arbitrary way.    (06)

  3. But for most applications, the most important ontologies are the
     low-level ones that are often independent of the upper levels.
     For example, an airline schedule has lots of times and places,
     but it is irrelevant whether the upper level uses a 3+1D or 4D
     axiomatization of space and time or how the upper level defines
     objects, people, and events.    (07)

  4. Therefore, I would prefer to put those upper-level foundations
     into independent modules that could be combined in a mix-&-match
     way with various low-level modules.  (I'll admit the option for
     a low-level ontology to state a dependency on or incompatibility
     with one or more upper modules.)    (08)

  5. Assuming N upper modules and M lower modules (where N is much
     less than M), this approach would be much less expensive than
     defining N*M complete ontologies.    (09)

MW> I am always surprised at just how different (and usually limited)
 > peoples mental models are.  I have yet to see two data models of
 > the same application look the same except by cut and paste.    (010)

I strongly agree.  But I take that point as an argument against
Pat C's claim of common mental models and against any claim that
a small number of global ontologies is possible.    (011)

PC> The hypothesis of the 'Conceptual Defining Vocabulary' states
 > that it will be possible to solve that problem with a common
 > ontology of agreed basic concepts that are used to specify the
 > meanings of the more specialized concepts in the different
 > models.    (012)

A child by the age of 6 has an excellent grasp of his or her
native language    (013)

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