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Re: [ontolog-forum] Building on common ground

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "Len Yabloko" <lenya@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: ken@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: "Christopher Spottiswoode" <cms@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 30 Mar 2008 22:29:31 +0200
Message-id: <043601c892a4$dd8fa690$0100a8c0@Dev>
Len, further to my own reply to you now at 
here are some small qualifications and extensions, but with a 
useful pointer at the end, and maybe a big question for you.    (01)

I had expressed my hope
> [...] that Pat Cassidy will further explore his 
> long-thread-throttled intuition that the very possibility of 
> communication should imply some useful level of ontology 
> commonality, syntactic and even apparent conceptual mismatches 
> notwithstanding.    (02)

(Pat, thanks for your immediate follow-up.  My response will be in 
a later post.)    (03)

> My own view, very non-Platonic or non-Pythagorian, is that the
> very definition of abstraction is surely commonality deemed to
> exist between situations, whether between communicating partners
> or between moments of one person.  And after all, intension and
> extension should best closely match!  (And it is in the end
> immaterial if the commonality / abstraction is discovered or
> invented, ex post facto or a priori, by induction or deduction 
> or even abduction.)
> Sure, all those generalities might appear remote and useless, 
> but I do not at all see a useful outcome of such reflection as 
> your "mission impossible".  Quite the contrary, I have already 
> started to point out how MACK embodies and builds on such 
> generalities, and you will see much more of that in my planned 
> future posts to this list.  That whole scene is even a 
> fundamental feature of The Mainstream and its conception of CK.
> So the more this forum can consider your and Pat C's "common
> ground" quest, the better it will understand MACK!    (04)

(Do skip the first set of new paragraphs now following if you 
don't want that rather patronizing recommendation enlarged upon.)    (05)

First I must relate how it long ago began to seem so necessary to 
do such enlarging.    (06)

Ken Baclawski of this forum will recall the wise and charming Haim 
Kilov's "Precise semantics" series of workshops at OOPSLAs and 
ECOOPs during the mid to late 1990s (and for which Haim produced 
full proceedings).  During the only one I was privileged to 
attend, at OOPSLA'98, there was at one stage a rather lost lull in 
the discussion, ended by Haim wondering rather pensively, "Ah yes, 
but what _is_ abstraction, really?"  He was not expecting an 
answer, but I couldn't help piping up, "But it's very simple! 
It's what communicating partners have in common."  Somewhat taken 
aback, Haim considered that for a moment, then nodded slowly in 
apparent assent, while looking at me as if in recognition of a 
novel observation.  Or else it was out of pity for an ignorant or 
facile observer?  Ken, maybe you have a highly remarkable eye and 
memory and can recall Haim's actual impression?  Anyway, Haim then 
found another way to continue the discussion, and whatever the 
true answer, I have further explored, elaborated and built on my 
position.    (07)

By now I can say that that equivalence of abstraction and 
commonality really is the key to MACK with its finetuning of both, 
even though it does need fuller amplification as in my first long 
self-quoted paragraph above, or as in my point 4 in 
http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/2008-03/msg00244.html.    (08)

There the very notion of "an entity", even when it is the most 
physical thing, is a concept which (whether we see it in 3D or 4D 
terms) is abstract in the sense that it 'comprises' or 'embodies' 
or 'reflects' - or "abstracts from"! - potentially-multiple 
experiences, to produce a deemed sameness or singular "it the 
entity" at different times or from otherwise different points of 
view, despite continuous change and otherwise inescapable 
difference.    (09)

That is the core "simplification of complexity" which the MACK 
environment builds on, and "Riding The Mainstream" will foster it 
in many powerful ways.    (010)

Furthermore, and though with this I run the risk of further 
confusing you now, you will also see, in a later instalment of 
"MACK basics", an extremely useful generalization of that 
abstraction/commonality equivalence:  even so specific a thing as 
one simple triple-entity fact can be regarded, in a "meta-" way, 
as equivalent to a MACK Form with precisely one instance of a 
FactInContext.  That is yet another manifestation of the ideal 
equivalence of extension and intension which I noted in the first 
self-quoted paragraph above.  It is thereby a key aspect of MACK's 
reflectivity on its own "meta-" world which is in its turn the key 
to a MACK AOS' self-management capability, and hence of the 
"application operating system" functionality of the MACK AOS.    (011)

That almost-empirical or -phenomenological interpretation of 
'abstract' is part of what underlies my "very non-Platonic" 
self-characterization above.  (So don't be misled by my central 
use of the word "Form" in MACK!)    (012)

When I get around more systematically to "pillar 3" of MACK in my 
"MACK basics" series in this forum you will see how I situate MACK 
Ontologically (or is it or "metaphysically" or 
"epistemologically"?) as far as philosophical schools or 
viewpoints are concerned.    (013)

But, ultimately, I shall claim that "The Mainstream Ontology" (the 
phrase I perhaps rashly coined "on the spur of the moment" in my 
"point 4" I cited above) at least very closely reflects ordinary 
scientific and everyday practice.  (And please provisionally 
excuse such further apparently rash generalization!)    (014)

Finally, my usual insistence:  once we have a running MACK AOS, 
all the above will surprisingly easily be seen as really very 
mainstream and obvious!    (015)

Meanwhile, it is also relevant to my whole MACK project to add 
another personal anecdote from Haim Kilov's OOPSLA'98 workshop. 
That was the first occasion on which I had ever heard of Category 
Theory, and I was struck by the almost reverential tones in which 
the odd allusion to it was made, and by the fact that none of 
those present even once dared enlarge upon that obviously-deemed 
opportunity.  Follow-up there and later soon had me appreciate why 
there was both that reverence and that silence.  Those 
investigations did however also have me note CT's quite possibly 
very fundamental applicability to MACK.    (016)

Both CT and Mathematical Logic will surely have great scope in 
MACK, e.g. for proving correctness and for building with 
better-assured scalability.  But first let's get the obvious 
immediate requirements satisfied!  Those formal approaches are R&D 
into the future, but the concrete building is largely a much 
simpler design and programming problem now, up to the point at 
which it can seed the collaborative meeting of many urgent, 
massive and already-recognized needs by legions of developer/users 
out there in the open market.  We can together make great progress 
with a seed or boot AOS while yet foreseeing a far more gradual 
phasing-in of the products of the formal R&D.    (017)

>> In my experience software architecture should be bottom-up and
>> scale-free. I am yet to see how MACK can address most basic
>> software architecture requirements, and then achieve high level
>> of abstraction required by Common Knowledge - this is where you
>> need a method which would allow aggregation of simple 
>> predicates into complex concepts. How do you propose to do 
>> that?
> Wow, that's a wonderful question, especially coming from the
> author of www.ontospace.net or rather O(n^2)Space!  My answer 
> has two very important and counter-balancing thrusts:
> 1.  Most of my coming 4th instalment addresses precisely the
> accumulation of simple predicates into rich descriptions and
> applications.  As you point out, that is essential.  But it is
> also a complicating process, and one where many an IT designer 
> has been trapped in failure or immobility.
> 2.  So that is of course where MACK, having been designed "to 
> help people simplify complexity together", has many simplifying 
> features, largely capturing and implementing natural techniques 
> such as the abstraction mentioned above with its various levels 
> of subtyping.  But a technique which should particularly please 
> you as O(n^2)Space author is already illustrated in my 
> just-posted 3rd instalment's Customer-Product-Productname-Word 
> join:  it does exactly your kind of cutting down of semantic 
> distance which results in more direct relevance!  We even have a 
> colloquial name for it: "scrunching", from the way it reaches 
> out into logical space and compresses it into more 
> directly-relevant joined dimensions, in effect simplifying by 
> abstraction once again.  My coming 4th or 5th instalment will go 
> into that in more detail.    (018)

First two qualifications:    (019)

a.  As intimated in the 3rd instalment, it is of course the 
inverse of the above join that covers the facts which give the 
answer sought, linking a word to the customers who have bought the 
relevant products.    (020)

b.  My reference to "semantic distance" was taking some liberties 
in generalizing that notion.  Normally it refers to two ontologies 
with a considerable degree of precise commonality already but with 
some crucial differences which may be glossed-over.  If they are 
glossed-over, the above telescoping or "scrunching" of logical 
chains similarly produces a precise rendering of some of the 
original data but with an analogous (and not equivalent) 
glossing-over in the form of dropping knowledge of the 
intermediating entities in the chain.  Both forms of data 
abstraction are simplifications which hopefully do apply to the 
situations in which they are used..    (021)

Finally the promised link:    (022)

http://www.selectorweb.com/data_warehouse.html with its "Star 
Configuration" and "Snow Flake Configuration" is another case of 
the usual phenomenon of the mainstream nature of most of MACK's 
features, and the familar "MDDB Cube" is exactly an application of 
the MACK "scrunching" described.  (So conventional BI or Business 
Intelligence is also subsumed into the MACK environment!  And yes, 
the central component of BI's "etl" or extract-transform-load 
processes do indeed exemplify MACK's "transformations".)    (023)

((Then more relevant personal history is that the software company 
I co-founded in 1978, but sold out of in 1990 to start the Metaset 
project, became the exclusive South African distributor for 
Cognos, billed in the above web page as the makers of "the world's 
best-selling OLAP software", building on MDDB as above.  It was 
however another product we sold and supported, Omnidex (see 
http://www.disc.com/), which was the main model for our Metakey 
product which was the setting for the "scrunching" described in my 
3rd instalment.  (But it was Cognos' main product in the 1980s, 
the PowerHouse 4GL, which of the specific products I have learnt 
and taught provided the most relevant insights and experience now 
embodied in MACK and the MACK AOS.)))    (024)

And at last a question and a request to you, Len:    (025)

In the above I have surely done a great injustice to your 
"O(n^2)Space" concept by giving a rather tenuous example of the 
kind of phenomenon I believe you have in mind with it.  I was 
thinking particularly of this from your home page:  "writing 
software always involves reduction of quadratic complexity as 
close to linear as possible."  And so on on that page.  (By the 
way, does that reliably make me think of those famous "six degrees 
of separation" between all the people on Earth?)  Anyway, both 
phenomena seem to me to involve those logical chains reduced to 
more situation-useful forms.  Though I am sure you mean a lot more 
than that, would you agree that my characterization is at least 
partially accurate?    (026)

Perhaps, though, especially once I have produced my "4th 
instalment" and you have had a chance to study it, you could 
consider giving this forum an overview of your site's relevance 
from an ontological point of view?  I would certainly look forward 
to such an enlargement of my own horizons.    (027)

But now I must get on with that 4th instalment, which will, I 
hope, make all the above much clearer...    (028)

Christopher     (029)

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