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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: Sat, 15 Mar 2008 11:43:35 -0500
Message-id: <47DBFCB7.1010700@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Matthew,    (01)

Although I have been arguing against a single fixed ontology, I'd
like to mention that my favorite approach to ontology is indeed a
4D version -- namely, Whitehead's process-based ontology.  However,
I'm sure that ANW would be the first to admit that the version he
presented in _Process and Reality_ has many loose ends that must be
resolved before it could be considered an effective foundation for
a computational system.  I sketched some of the ideas in my KR book,
but there's much more that needs to be done.    (02)

However, I also believe that it is extremely important for any
ontology to support a smooth mapping to and from natural languages.
One of the main reasons is that the overwhelming amount of available
info now and for many years to come is stated in NLs or forms that
have been derived or abstracted from NLs.    (03)

Even more important is that most people think in terms of their
favorite NL, and they will inevitably interpret any info presented
in any other form in the terms of that NL.  If that info cannot be
mapped smoothly into an NL statement, most people will almost
certainly distort it (probably incorrectly) into a form that does
map to their NL.    (04)

As an example, the linguist Roman Jakobson once said "I can speak
Russian in 17 different languages."  Since he spoke and wrote quite
well in many of those other languages (especially English, German,
and French), he showed that such mappings are practical.    (05)

Since most NLs tend to treat space and time in something like
a 3+1 coordinate system, any 4D system will have to support
such mappings in both directions -- at least locally.    (06)

Some comments on your note:    (07)

MW> For any unambiguous description of some situation, it is possible
 > to define a mapping into a *good* integating ontology, effectively
 > creating a copy in the terms and paradigm of the integrating ontology.
 > This enables information from different sources and perhaps different
 > or no foundation ontology to be brought together, so that they can be
 > reasoned over or queried as a whole. A lot of Business Information
 > systems aim to do just this.    (08)

I would agree that a 4D ontology is probably better as an integrating
basis, but as I mentioned in earlier notes, most messages, including
NL comments and explanations, are local.  That means that a translation
to or from an NL would not have to be globally consistent.  It could be
something like approximating a spherical earth by locally flat planes.    (09)

MW> If you can't do this, you need to fix your upper ontology.    (010)

I suspect that the upper levels of any globally consistent ontology
would probably be highly abstract and not easily translatable to
colloquial NL statements.  That is one reason why I would throw away
the upper levels of most terminologies, including WordNet.    (011)

MW> You can't map missing information (though you might want to
 > identify implicit information and map that).    (012)

I agree.    (013)

John    (014)

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