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Re: [ontolog-forum] Distributed Knowledge?

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "Sean Barker" <sean.barker@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 14 Oct 2008 13:58:44 -0500
Message-id: <2EEC87EF-5FC4-449D-90EE-D857A2657A24@xxxxxxx>

On Oct 14, 2008, at 1:23 PM, Sean Barker wrote:

    The question was about what are the expectations of the terms in an ontology. The Semantic Web version seems to suggest that you just pick up on the terms that you are interested in, and that's enough. However, if the term is just the start of a chain of inference, then someone reading only the term will mis-understand the term, at least to some extent. In principle, to understand the term in the way that it is meant, one should follow the inferences which the sender has made, and probably with the same inference engine - hence the need for omniscience.
Let me clarify the idea of the semantic web, as this is exasperatingly close but misses the crucial insight. First, its not necessary have the same inference engine; only an engine which conforms to the published specs, all of which have been carefully and consciously written so as to NOT commit to a particular engine, but instead only to a common semantics. Any engine which draws valid inferences according to the published semantics is acceptable. Second, its not necessary to have all the inference chains in order to understand the content. That is the whole point of inference: you can do it for yourself, with confidence. If I send you some SWeb content and you draw valid conclusions from it, then those conclusions are just as much part of what I have sent you as if I had sent them directly. You have a blanket licence, provided by the published specifications of the notations themselves, to draw such conclusions. That is WHY I don't need to send them all to you, you see. 
    Alternatively, one might hypothesise that individuals may only pick up on the knowledge they need - use only the terms without further inference. That means that they have, to some extent, misunderstood the term.
No. They can do as much inference or as little as they like. But their not doing so does not imply that they are MISunderstanding anything. They may need only a very limited set of valid conclusions to do their job. That is not misunderstanding. 
This raises two questions; firstly, how can one quantify the level of misunderstanding? and secondly, how can one then determine if the level of misunderstanding is significant?
    Behind this is my suspicion is that many people start with the assumtion that, say, nouns name things or concepts. An alternative is that nouns are a grammatical category that allow people to play particular word games. Many - but not all - of these games are games that relate to named things or concepts. One problem for ontology development is to exclude from an ontology the nouns which do not name things (are games only) - all though they may have a function in meta-ontology conversations. For example, I would classify "property" as defining one such game. We can cite as properties of a ball its shape, colour, age or cost without suggesting that there is anything in common between shape, colour age or cost (other than being a property). Conversely, the game property rules out "being owned by" or "having followed a particular course" as properties.
Not in the game played in ontology writing, I assure you. Those are just as much properties of the ball as its color is. One of the basic rules of this game is to refrain from drawing 'lines in the sand' like this, as they don't help get anything done and often get in the way. 

Pat Hayes
    Further, I suspect most terms in an upper ontology to be word games, that is, that these terms are contexts in which a particular set of metaphysical rules may be applied, where:
Context - an agreement on the things germane to a conversation
Metaphysical rule - a criterion for distinguishing categories within a context - e.g. change is germane to physical objects but not to abstract things like numbers.
(At least Ambrose Bierce might agree).

Sean Barker
Bristol, UK

From: paola.dimaio@xxxxxxxxx [mailto:paola.dimaio@xxxxxxxxx] 
Sent: 14 October 2008 03:27
To: Barker, Sean (UK)
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Distributed Knowledge?

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I am curious what is the preamble for this, or are you just following your train of thoughts?

I have been working on some aspects of distributed knowledge, in particular in relation to my interest in 'expertfinding ',  and I am interested in what you say but of all things , its your conclusion that strikes a chord with me

One might also observe that to base everything on a single, comprehensive
ontology, one would need to be omniscient.

Not necessarily. A single unified ontology can be  a model for omniscience, but individuals (people and machines) only access parts of it at any given time, until and unless , our cognitive apparatus (the way we learn and make inferences) is radically overhauled.  
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