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Re: [ontolog-forum] Foundation Ontology [was Semantic Web shortcomings]

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, Patrick Cassidy <pat@xxxxxxxxx>
Cc: standard-upper-ontology@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2008 21:12:50 -0400
Message-id: <48ACC112.2080201@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat,    (01)

If you like the term 'foundation ontology', I won't complain.  But
please note that the method of the Longman dictionary is totally
different from anything that we have been calling an ontology.  Their
defining vocabulary, as they say in the introduction, is intended for
people who are learning English as a second language.  It is not an
ontology like Cyc, SUMO, BFO, Dolce, etc.    (02)

The people who use the Longman Learners' Dictionary have an enormous
amount of background knowledge beyond any computer system today.
They are able to use that knowledge to interpret the very incomplete
so-called definitions.  That may be useful for people, but it's not
an ontology that could be used for deductive reasoning by computers.    (03)

On the other hand, those very incomplete definitions are not bad for
specifying an incomplete type hierarchy, somewhat along the lines of
WordNet.  Something at that level can be extremely valuable, as the
many applications of WordNet have demonstrated.  In fact, it could
also be useful as a basis for a *lightweight* low-cost foundation.    (04)

Following is my recommendation for a foundation ontology (FO).
I'm sending this note to both ontolog-forum and the SUO mailing
list, because something along these lines could be appropriate
for an IEEE standard:    (05)

  1. A lightweight, low-cost foundation, an initial version of which
     could be developed relatively quickly without a large investment
     of cash, but which could evolve into something much more complete.    (06)

  2. The initial components of the FO would take advantage of resources
     that have proved to be successful in practical applications.  But
     the principles should also have a sound logical basis to enable
     a smooth evolution and transition toward a more complete system.    (07)

  3. A simple, but widely used resource is WordNet.  Its advantage is
     wide coverage, and its lack of detailed axioms enables it to be
     adapted to multiple purposes without creating contradictions.
     However, many aspects of WordNet, such as its top-level categories,
     would require revisions or replacement before being adopted and
     adapted into the FO type hierarchy.  Many other resources could
     also be added, but with considerable revisions to avoid conflicts.
     The FO hierarchy would initially have very few axioms, of which
     the primary ones would be the subtype/supertype relations.    (08)

  4. Other important resources are the standards for dates, times,
     geographical locations, units of measurement, monetary units,
     chemical elements and compounds, etc.  The terminology and the
     mathematical relations among terms should be related to the FO
     hierarchy and made available for all applications.    (09)

  5. Organizations for the sciences, engineering, law, medicine,
     businesses, governments, agriculture, etc., have established
     standardized terminology with standard definitions and detailed
     specifications.  These terms should be related to the basic
     FO hierarchy, but a suitable naming scheme is necessary to
     distinguish homonyms used in different standards and revisions.    (010)

  6. The development of the FO should be coordinated with existing
     bodies such as ISO, W3C, and various governmental and non-
     governmental organizations.  The naming scheme should enable
     different bodies to control their own terminology while relating
     them to the basic FO type hierarchy.    (011)

There is a lot more to be said, but I believe that something along
these lines would be (a) relatively inexpensive to get started,
(b) upward compatible with existing practices, (c) immediately useful
for practical applications, and (d) compatible with both formal
deductive systems and much more informal tools used for information
classification and retrieval.    (012)

If we do a good job, it could become an IEEE standard.    (013)

John Sowa    (014)

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