I sympathise with your concern. The person to whom your address may hardly
realize the whole situation. I guess, the deplorable situation reflects
more general states of affairs. The reason of such a division between the
data base folks and the SW people seemingly comes from one nonsensical but
currently fashionable movement, traded as ''postmodernism'', a current
extension of ''modernism'', started emerging in the 1950 years, as you
noted. General truths, principles, science, rationality, universality,
objectivism, essentiality, fundamentals of knowledge, and legacy, all
suddenly lost their fundamental value. There is no truth as such, for every
truth is individually or socially constructed. Again, there is no reality
but a subjective world; for there are different personal worlds sharing
nothing essential. To be fashionable, you have to adore ambiguity,
anti-foundationalism, paradigm shift, subjectivity, particularity,
reativism, simulation, or sign reality, regionalism, provincialism,
fragmentation, and anti-ontology. At the same time. you have to reject
common schema (as meta-narratives), unity, integrity, holism, harmony,
perfection, generality, high culture, high art, and high science. Such a
fragmentation affected all basal spheres of human life: politics, culture,
art, literature, history, law, business, market as well as science.
Accordingly, ''modern science'' is becoming a sort of business enterprise,
where academic communities, as commercial corporations, wage warfare with
each other for rewards, funds, and other public accolades. The science is no
more a great pursuit of truth, but the pursuance of fame and the quest of
wealth and the search of funds, by any means and ways. This is the unhappy
That's why any integrative initiative, as the Foundation Ontology Project,
is a timely and most welcome enterprise in our unhappy times of badly
fragmented ''postmodern sciences'' and hence domain ontologies.
----- Original Message -----
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <edbark@xxxxxxxx>; "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "OMG Ontology PSIG" <ontology@xxxxxxx>
Sent: Saturday, August 30, 2008 4:19 AM
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] [Fwd: [CL] RIF Basic Logic Dialect hits last
> Thanks for sending a copy of Chris Welty's note to Ontolog forum.
> Following is a slightly edited version of my response to Chris.
> I realize that many intelligent people have devoted a great deal
> of effort to producing the RIF document, but I am disappointed
> by the fact that the Semantic Webbers have isolated themselves
> from the successes achieved by other very intelligent people in
> computer science and data processing over the past 50 years.
> For example, the Semantic Web suffers from same provincialism
> that prevented AI from being integrated into the mainstream of
> data processing. To a certain extent, I can't blame the AI crowd,
> because the circumstances that led to their isolation were not
> entirely their fault. I would put some of the blame on IBM, the
> company where I worked for 30 years:
> 1. Much of the earliest work on AI in the 1950s was done on IBM
> computers, such as the 704 vacuum-tube machine and the upward
> compatible transistorized versions, the 7090 and 7094.
> 2. In 1964, two major developments occurred: IBM introduced
> the new System/360 line, which broke compatibility with the
> 7094, and DEC introduced its first large system, the PDP 6,
> which was as fast as a System/360 Model 65, but as cheap as
> a Model 50.
> 3. At that time, both the MIT and Stanford AI groups were
> planning to upgrade their hardware, and they agreed to
> purchase identical hardware configurations so that they
> could share code. The obvious choice was the PDP 6.
> 4. The IBM monopoly had sucked almost all data processing onto
> IBM equipment, and DEC was left with a much smaller market.
> But the cutting edge work in AI was carried out on DEC
> equipment until the 1980s, when much of it moved to Sun
> workstations and LISP machines.
> As a result of this history, the database field (which used the
> largest available machines, mostly IBM mainframes) was totally
> isolated from the AI research (which ran on much smaller machines
> that lacked industrial-strength database software). Furthermore,
> the COBOL language, which most people in comp. sci. treated with
> contempt, was the most widely-used language for data processing.
> In the early 1980s, rule-based expert systems were very hot,
> and I was working with the AI groups at IBM. Many commercial
> applications (including many within IBM) could have benefited
> from such technology. But very little of the major AI software
> could run on IBM hardware, and none of it could support mainstream
> data processing systems that used RDBs and COBOL.
> There was once a saying that the economy of the free world ran
> on COBOL and relational DBs. Today, COBOL is less important than
> it used to be, but relational DBs are more entrenched than ever.
> Now the *world* economy runs on RDBs.
> Almost every major web site includes a large RDB, and the medium
> sized web sites are based on LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL, and
> Perl, Python, or PHP. But the developers of RDF(S) and OWL
> ignored that extremely important part of the WWW.
> The Semantic Web failed to provide a seamless integration with
> RDBs. (SPARQL is *not* a solution -- it is just one more step
> *away* from integration.) There is an ISO standard for Prolog,
> which is very widely used for major applications. Experian,
> one of the three largest credit bureaus, *bought* Prologia --
> the company founded by Alain Colmerauer, the inventor of Prolog.
> But instead of building on the ISO standard for Prolog, the RIF
> designers developed an incompatible rule language.
> If you want a serious proposal on how to make the Semantic Web
> succeed, following is an outline of my recommendations:
> 1. Integrate the SW with relational databases. That means
> n-tuples, not triples, as the primary data format.
> 2. An upward compatible version of SQL should be supported
> as the query language, but a typed version of the much
> cleaner Datalog language should also be supported.
> 3. Integrate the SW development tools with the mainstream
> software development tools, such as the UML diagrams,
> but provide a firm logic foundation based on logic,
> preferably a logic that puts a premium on semantics,
> not syntax. The ISO standard for Common Logic is
> an example.
> 4. Design RIF as a syntactic front-end to ISO standard Prolog,
> but also provide a switch that permits either classical
> negation or negation-as-failure (as in Prolog).
> 5. Pay serious attention to Google's protocol buffers, which
> they developed as their primary notation for transmitting,
> storing, and processing large volumes of structured data.
> There are many more details to be added, but these are the
> fundamental prerequisites for a successful Semantic Web.
> The fact that Google, the largest and most successful of the WWW
> businesses, has ignored RDF and OWL is a sign that the SW, on its
> current path, will be limited to a marginal role on the fringes
> of the WWW.
> PS Re AI history: Stanford and MIT bought identical hardware,
> but as soon as they wrote the first lines of code, their software
> became incompatible: MACLISP from MIT and InterLISP from Stanford.
> That fragmentation was another obstacle to commercial success.
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