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Re: [ontolog-forum] Looking forward at the past

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Patrick Cassidy" <pat@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 8 Oct 2008 00:34:23 -0400
Message-id: <09c001c928ff$23918280$6ab48780$@com>
  You are ignoring three very important points.
(1)   When you try to "interoperate" with a plumber or any other person,
your chances of achieving successful communication depend on both of you
already sharing a very large basic vocabulary.  How are you going to call
the plumber on the phone and tell him/her where you are and what you want
done, and ask what price he charges, and how long it will take?  If you are
communicating in person, and resort to gestures, you will be able to
communicate only to the extent that the gestures you make are comprehensible
to the person observing them, and that will depend on both of you already
having enough common experience of actions involving those gestures so that
an understanding will arise.  If you are communicating something very
simple, a relatively small repertoire of common background may suffice, but
if you want to interoperate generally over a large range of issues, a much
larger inventory of common symbols - words or gestures - is required.  It is
fine to say that you can interoperate with Mr. X on a narrow topic with a
small repertoire of common knowledge, but that does nothing at all to solve
the problem of multiple people (systems) trying to communicate among
themselves over a variety of topics. Have you ever actually hired a plumber
who has no language in common with you?
(2) When a person is reading a book without the author being present, there
is no opportunity to supplement the linguistic symbol knowledge with
gestures or with any other contextual and situational objects to avoid the
need to actually understand the meanings of the language in the book.  No
negotiation of meanings or "language games" will be possible, except what
arises from an understanding of what is in the text, which absolutely
requires a lot of common prior knowledge of language use (including how
language use can signal context which may modify the meanings of individual
words).  When a computer system receives a communication from another, and
must act on it, successful interpretation again depends on a sufficiently
large common base of knowledge of symbol usage.  If two programs with the
same calculation routines transmit a single digit, the common program
structure supplies the information.  If you want to put information on the
internet for anyone to use, without knowing why it was created or how it was
used by its originator, the ability to interpret it properly will depend on
a large set of common background knowledge that will allow the specific
piece of information to be properly interpreted, and distinguished from
hundreds of thousands of other words and multiple millions of other phrases
that might appear unpredictably on the Web.
(3) I said that I believe this, but did not say that I already have the
proof.  What I have also said is that this hypothesis is susceptible of
proof, and since the answer appears to me to be extremely important for
semantic interoperability, any plausible proposal for discovering the answer
should be funded by agencies interested in semantic interoperability.    (01)

Why would one want to discourage a serious attempt to find the answer to a
question that has great relevance to the practical issue of semantic
interoperability, as well as being inherently interesting as a scientific
issue in its own right?    (02)

Pat    (03)

Patrick Cassidy
cell: 908-565-4053
cassidy@xxxxxxxxx    (04)

> -----Original Message-----
> From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-
> bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of John F. Sowa
> Sent: Tuesday, October 07, 2008 5:27 PM
> To: [ontolog-forum]
> Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Looking forward at the past
> Pat,
> You have made statements like that for a long time, but I fail
> to see any evidence for that claim:
> PC> I believe that the best prospect for achieving semantic
> > interoperability among a very wide number of users is for the
> > users to agree on using the same common foundation ontology
> > that is open to inclusion of elements from any source, mediated
> > by a technical committee that is also open for membership.
> > The structure of that ontology, and the content of the most
> > basic ('primitive') concept representations will have to be
> > agreed to by the users.
> For example, I may achieve "semantic interoperability" with
> a plumber, a dentist, a clerk at the supermarket, a waiter
> at a restaurant, and a contractor who makes some repairs to
> my house.
> But in each case, the agreement is on specific task-oriented
> details.  There is never any need for the six of us to agree
> on a foundational ontology.  Instead, the agreement is always
> on very low-level task-oriented details that are different
> for each pair of interactions.
> Sometimes, I successfully interoperate with people whose knowledge
> of English is limited to a tiny subset that covers that task.  For
> most of our common purposes, that subset is adequate.  But if an
> exception occurs, we may need to call a supervisor to mediate.
> The issues most important for interoperability of two agents
> X and Y are limited to a very narrow *intersection* of the
> knowledge that X and Y have.  If agent X interacts with Y and Z,
> X may use different intersections with each of them that have
> very little in common.
> For the plumber, dentist, clerk, waiter, and contractor, that
> common intersection includes dollars, cents, counting, and the
> basic knowledge of the physical world that I share with my cat.
> When I interact with Amazon.com, you can even omit the physical
> world.
> John
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>     (05)

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