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Re: [ontolog-forum] Semantic Web shortcomings [was Re: ANN: GoodRelation

To: Ron Wheeler <rwheeler@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 15 Aug 2008 19:15:46 -0400
Message-id: <48A60E22.3040708@xxxxxxxx>
Ron Wheeler wrote:    (01)

> I am not sure that ontology can be applied to high value projects 
> without some elements of AI.    (02)

I always assumed that "axiomatic ontology" was one branch of AI.    (03)

> I am looking for intelligent agents (that are not humans - which I 
> think, implies artificial) that can draw actionable conclusions in 
> complex situations faster than humans.    (04)

I think that is the general idea in knowledge engineering.  And it also 
applies to the Semantic Web.  The idea is to allow the engine to discard 
the chaff in the Google results and present you with only the grain.    (05)

> The other side of the equation is the tool sets that make it easy for a 
> SME (Subject Matter Expert) to transfer his or her understanding of the 
> universe into a model.    (06)

There is work going on in that area, but it is definitely not ready for 
prime time.  There are 5 or 6 "structured English" projects, but they 
don't really help the domain expert become a modeler, which is a skill. 
  And there is the automated text analysis work, which keeps getting 
better and better, but still isn't good.  (Natural language is just too 
messy.  It is amazing that we ever understand one another.)  The hybrid 
approach starts with a "sketch ontology" of the domain, and then uses 
either the expert or the text to refine it.    (07)

> I failed to realize that the gaining of PhDs was the only goal in life. 
> (Too much time spent in the real world!)    (08)

That is really a Catch-22.  Much of the government grant money goes to 
academic institutions.  Most of the research, and almost all of the 
product, of academic institutions is done with student labor.  Capable 
students are willing to perform the labors of Hercules for a pittance, 
as long as it leads to a degree in a few years.  Degrees are granted for 
advancing the knowledge base of the science.  If a reputable institution 
takes the money to build an ontology, it can't find a competent student 
to do the work, because it can't give a degree for recording existing 
knowledge.  So the ontology work has to be coupled with some ostensible 
technological advance, and the latter becomes the dominant theme of the 
work (and usually vitiates any value there may have been in the 
ontology).  The only way the work actually gets done is under some other 
umbrella: the student is given the task of building the Augean stables 
ontology, "as a learning experience", before he will be allowed to do 
the exciting work that will lead to his advanced degree.    (09)

> The SME has the job of building the model of a fair amount of the universe.
> This SME might only have a high school education or junior college 
> degree but he is the guy most knowledgeable about the relationship 
> between valve 295 and the rest of the universe.
> His knowledge may save a petrochemical plant as much money in one day as 
> a PhD makes in a lifetime and may save many more lives.    (010)

And all that is required is a skilled knowledge engineer (with or 
without Ph.D.) who gets to talk to the SME, can find out that valve 295 
is significant, can determine from that conversation how it is related 
to the rest of the plant universe, and can properly add that knowledge 
to the ontology.    (011)

I am reminded of the senior manager who asked why no one in his 
organization had made the model we presented.  Voice from the back of 
the room:  "Because it's nobody's <expletive> job to know how, and 
nobody's <expletive> job to do it."    (012)

There is always a reason why certain things don't happen (and another 
well-known substance does).    (013)

-Ed    (014)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                FAX: +1 301-975-4694    (015)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST,
  and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (016)

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