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

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Patrick Cassidy" <pat@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2008 22:29:50 -0400
Message-id: <028f01c9026c$9ee08e90$dca1abb0$@com>
   I think we are talking about different things:
> First of all, you are assuming that something that is impossible for
> the much narrower language of arithmetic could be accomplished for
> the vastly larger and more complex natural languages.
   A foundation ontology of the kind I envision will provide a set of
elements that allow specifying the meanings of more specific ontology
elements people use in applications.  These "specifications of meaning" only
need to be sufficiently detailed to clearly differentiate each element from
the other and allow computers to calculate the inferences that are relevant
for the applications.
   I have no idea what you think is impossible for arithmetic, but lots of
people have been using arithmetic for very practical applications for
millennia and if we can get a foundation ontology that works as well for
database interoperability we will be very far ahead of where we are now.
The foundation ontology is intended to serve a practical task, not to
satisfy some philosophical curiosity.
   Yes, few of the meaning specifications in an ontology will be closed-form
definitions.  I don't expect that will be necessary for the purpose.
   Cyc might very well serve as the starting point for an open project, but
in order to serve the purpose as a common foundation ontology, it needs to
gather input from a much wider community, and be controlled by that
community, not by Cycorp.  It remains to be seen whether the Cyc foundation
will evolve in that direction.  Their blog does not suggest an active user
group.  For a project to develop a foundation ontology as a conceptual
analog of the Longman defining vocabulary, I would expect the OpenCyc to be
an important resource, but the common foundation ontology will have to
include views that differ from the way concepts are represented in Cyc.
Again, I suggest that the best process is to bring together an international
group of ontology developers and users to find a structure that will be
adequate for all of them, and for that, some modest but non-trivial funding
is needed.  The best common ontology, in my view, will allow different
logically compatible ways of viewing the same entities, with translations
between alternative views.
   The existing definitions in the Longman are skimpy because their purpose
is to allow learners of English as a second language to understand them.
This does not mean that more detail could not be added, still using the same
defining vocabulary.  Some experiments I did indicate to my satisfaction
that more detailed definitions can be created without expanding the defining
vocabulary.  Whether an analogous conceptual defining vocabulary will
function adequately for interoperability cannot be proven or disproven by
abstract argument, it has to be tried by a project with adequate resources
to have a chance to succeed.  No, it has not been performed over millennia,
the example foundation ontologies that provide the starting point have only
been available for the past 5-10 years.   Of course it will never be proven
until it is tried.  This is not philosophy, it is largely engineering.  An
engineering hypothesis can only be proven by building the artifact that is
postulated to serve the practical purpose envisioned.
   If the estimates of over a hundred billion per year in lost efficiency
due to lack of interoperability are valid (I think it is an underestimate),
then we have lost over a trillion since discussions started on a "standard
upper ontology", and risking 10-20 million on a serious effort to provide
the solution seems to me as a total no-brainer.
   I haven't seen any other proposals that come even close to providing as
effective a solution even for multiples of that price.  Hoping that by some
magic some means of relating ontologies will evolve without central
direction is to me the equivalent of praying for a solution.  The
development of isolated local ontologies for specialized communities does
not help solve the problem, it magnifies the problem as idiosyncratic
logical structures are created that will be difficult and time-consuming
(though not impossible) to relate to each other.  Whatever local utility
they may have, they can't interoperate.    (01)

Pat    (02)

Patrick Cassidy
cell: 908-565-4053
cassidy@xxxxxxxxx    (03)

> -----Original Message-----
> From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-
> bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of John F. Sowa
> Sent: Tuesday, August 19, 2008 7:01 PM
> To: [ontolog-forum]
> Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Semantic Web shortcomings [was Re: ANN:
> GoodRelations - The Web Ontology for E-Commerce]
> Pat,
> Innumerable proper tests and analyses have been performed over
> the past two millennia.
> PC> It seems to me to be counterproductive to assume an answer
>  > before a proper test is performed.
> Before getting into any further discussion, it is essential to
> distinguish two kinds of definitions in mathematics:
>   1. Closed-form definitions, in which one concept or predicate P
>      is defined as a synonym for a particular expression X (possibly
>      with free variables in X that can be replaced by arguments of P).
>      Such a definition would allow any occurrence of P to be replaced
>      by X with arguments substituted for the free variables.
>   2. Implicit definition, in which some concept or predicate P is
>      used in various axioms, but never defined by a closed-form
>      definition.
> Whenever possible, mathematicians like to find closed-form definitions
> because they simplify the computation.  To evaluate some predicate P
> for some list of arguments, they can simply compute the expression.
> Unfortunately, only a tiny fraction of interesting functions and
> predicates have closed-form definitions.  There are uncountable
> infinities of functions that cannot be defined in closed form.
> PC> The relevant precedent of work with the Longman defining vocabulary
>  > is, I believe, highly suggestive of a reasonably small (<10,000)
>  > concept set that can specify the meaning of anything of interest,
>  > by combinations of the primitives.
> First of all, you are assuming that something that is impossible for
> the much narrower language of arithmetic could be accomplished for
> the vastly larger and more complex natural languages.
> Second, the Longman editors never accomplished that task.  They
> never even attempted to give complete, closed-form definitions
> for all the words in their dictionaries.  For example, look at
> their definition of 'whist':
>     a type of card game for 2 pairs of players
> Then look at one of the definitions for 'bridge':
>     a type of card game for 4 players developed from the game
>     of WHIST and usually played as CONTRACT BRIDGE or sometimes
> Then look for the definitions of 'auction bridge' and 'contract
> bridge', and you will find the note "see BRIDGE".   You can also
> look at the definition of 'poker':
>     a type of card game usually played for money.
> Since bridge and whist are sometimes played for money, this
> doesn't say much to distinguish them.  I'd love to play for
> money against somebody whose only knowledge of poker or bridge
> is what they read in that dictionary.
> If you browse through the Longman's dictionary, you'll find an
> enormous number of such examples.
> In short, they are just specifying a type hierarchy with very
> few properties that are woefully insufficient to distinguish
> many terms from one another.  For physical things, they
> supplement the written definitions with pictures, but those
> won't provide much help for most of our purposes.
> If you want to see the complete axioms (rules) for contract bridge,
> you can download a 76-page PDF from www.acbl.org -- but it's written
> in English, not a formal logic.  That is the kind of information
> that is needed to supplement a very large number, probably most
> of the so-called definitions given in the Longman's dictionary.
> I'll admit that the kind of type hierarchy specified in Longman's
> can be useful for many of the same purposes as WordNet.  But that
> is far less than what is necessary for reasoning.
> As I've said many times, study Cyc.  That is the best example of
> what you're asking for.  They have over 600,000 concepts defined
> by over 2 million axioms, yet they're very far from providing
> the kinds of definitions you're hoping to find in Longman's.
> John
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