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

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Len Yabloko" <lenya@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2008 00:36:03 +0000
Message-id: <W208731332256061219624563@webmail2>
>I suggested the term UFO as a joke, but we should recognize that the
>problem of symbol grounding is significant.  And we should note that
>there are three methods of grounding the symbols we use:
>  1. Direct experience with the referents by perception and action.
>  2. Indirect connections to experience by associations created by
>     patterns of words that are more directly grounded.
>  3. Communication by means of natural languages with other people
>     whose grounding for the symbols is more direct than ours.
>The issue of grounding the symbols used in AI was a hot topic
>back in the 1980s with lots of spilled ink about Searle's
>Chinese room.  The people who are working on robots are finally
>answering the symbol grounding questions by connecting symbols
>to the robots' systems of perception and action.
I believe the problem of symbol grounding needs to be addressed not in it's 
absolute form - connecting sensory-motor feedback to symbolic computing - the 
way robotics does, but in relativistic form - as symbolic scoping. Perception 
does not have to operate with physical reality, although feedback is essential 
part of it. The origin of problem of symbol grounding is attempts to define 
meaning within machine, which becomes a moot point when considering fusion of 
information pathways that occurs today. Today this problem needs to be 
formulate upside-down: as problem of creating ground for bridging disconnected 
areas of symbolic computation. Instead of grounding meaning (which was the 
ultimate failure of AI) we should scope it according to present common ground.     (01)

>In any case, I was never really worried about symbol grounding
>because people have been using ungrounded books for millennia.
>Some books link the words to pictures, but the main method for
>grounding words is to take advantage of the human methods of
>communication (point #3 above).
Culture is form of symbol grounding formulated in relative terms - as common 
ground. There was never a reason to worry about absolute one, unless you are 
developing robots. Unfortunately culture is subject to crisis, - not merely an 
evolution. And it depends on carrier media. Books no longer provide sufficient 
basis for main stream culture, nor does natural language communication. Perhaps 
evolution of natural language was a natural response to previous crisis of 
culture and communication. But now we face a new challenge for symbol grounding 
at yet grander scope including machines and electronic media.    (02)

>And I would also note that the *most* frequent method of symbol
>grounding that people use is based on communication with other people
>by means of natural language.  That is why comments are essential for
>telling us how to use any formal notation.  The ideal comments are
>ones that can be stated in a controlled natural language that a
>computer can relate to the formalism automatically.    (03)

In my view - "comments" in conventional sense is no longer sufficient to 
maintain common ground, the same way as writing letters is no longer sufficient 
to stay in touch with the world. More generally conversation as a form of 
communication is outdated - we leave in the age of interaction. Luckily we can 
still keep track of it, but comments are outpaced by transactions, which is a 
new way of communication.     (04)

So I strongly believe that new common ground must relate symbols in media to   
transactions taking place in that media. Our role as carriers of culture is to  
accelerate natural process of semiosis by enriching semantics of transaction 
until it is on par with natural language and can transcend it.       (05)

>John Sowa    (06)

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