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

To: <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: <matthew.west@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 16 Mar 2008 08:25:29 -0000
Message-id: <808637A57BC3454FA660801A3995FA8F06A2D123@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear John,    (01)

> MW> The key point about messages, is that if they all conform
>  > to a common ontology, mapping in and out at the system interface.
>  > This introduces consistency and improves maintainability of the
>  > interfaces.
> Yes, but that's a very big 'if'.  Any new system must support
> a smooth transition from and coexistence with legacy systems,
> future revisions and extensions to the new system, eventual
> replacements when it becomes a legacy system, and communication
> with other systems designed for other purposes by people who,
> rightly or wrongly, think they have a need for something else.    (02)

MW: You are missing the point. When you develop your interfaces
with a single ontology, then for each system you have only one
ontology to integrate with, rather than one per system that you
interface to. Also it is the same ontology you integrate to for
all systems, and that is another benefit.
> JFS>> I suspect that the upper levels of any globally consistent
>  >> ontology would probably be highly abstract and not easily
>  >> translatable to colloquial NL statements.
> MW> Well if you think that saying things can be classified,
>  > classes can have subtypes, and individuals can have parts is
>  > abstract, then yes, but these do not seem very abstract
>  > statements to me.
> The is-a operator, by itself, can be stated in two simple
> English words.  But the types at the upper levels may become
> very abstract and sophisticated.    (03)

MW: I agree that there are some abstract concepts. But they are
relatively few (tens rather than hundreds in an ontology of
tens of thousands). They should only be included when they
bear characteristic and axioms that are hence stored in one place
rather than repeated in several. Of course those that are 
dealing with things at a lower level of abstraction do not even
need to be aware of these. Most people are happy when they can
see that the next immediate supertype is appropriate.
> For example, consider some of the sophisticated notions in
> relativity and quantum mechanics, which must be accommodated
> by any truly global ontology.  Trying to incorporate such
> notions along with all the more familiar notions in a complete
> and consistent way is what Whitehead was trying to do.  That's
> why his system is still incomplete.    (04)

MW: I would not see this as upper ontology stuff at all. This is
the stuff of detail at a very low level of reality. The relevant
upper ontology stuff for this is the recgnition of levels of
reality and the very general ideas of individuals that would 
include things like ourselves and sub-atomic particles.
> JFS>> That is one reason why I would throw away the upper levels
>  >> of most terminologies, including WordNet.
> MW> I wish you would stop saying this. The real problem is
>  > people putting the wrong things in upper ontologies, not there
>  > being something wrong with them per se.
> I do not view WordNet and various terminologies as ontologies,
> but rather as lexicons that are used to link NLs to formal
> ontologies.  When I say "throw away" the upper levels of such
> systems, I mean that their function at the interface between
> NLs and formal ontologies does not require and is, in fact,
> incompatible with their having an upper level of their own.    (05)

MW: OK. So what you are saying is that when you are integrating
some external ontology with yours, you do not need to worry
about its upper ontology. That I would agree with.    (06)

Regards    (07)

Matthew West
Reference Data Architecture and Standards Manager
Shell International Petroleum Company Limited
Registered in England and Wales
Registered number: 621148
Registered office: Shell Centre, London SE1 7NA, United Kingdom    (08)

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