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[ontolog-forum] Standards, Security, and Real Life (was Standards compli

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Toby Considine" <tobyconsidine@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 19 Oct 2008 13:43:29 -0400
Message-id: <b14fd7f30810191043t1f3b81c2q59aeef64eecf0841@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
I am pushing this into its own fork...

In Standards Compliance, John Sowa wrote:
The folksonomy process is based on the same kind of consensus that
has created and adapted the informal meanings of words in natural
languages.  The only difference is the speed that is possible with
the WWW.

For finding movies, restaurants, or job opportunities, that method
is quite good.  But you can't depend on a folksonomy to define the
terms for designing an airplane or prescribing the drugs and therapy
for a cancer patient.

The informal terms (of NLs or folksonomies) are the ones that
people actually use in their informal thought and language.  But
we need formal definitions to support long chains of reasoning in
computer systems.  And we need to map those formal terms to and
from the informal terms that people actually use.


I have been wrestling extra hard with this last week. The problem of formal standards compliance and precise descriptions only works well inside defined domains. Given perfect connection, and perfect connectivity, then one can get perfect knowledge with enough [RDF] , computing power, and time.

When you toss such a standard over the transom to a different domain, loss of precision is not only inevitable, it may be a benefit. There are actual benefits to loss of informational integrity and completeness between domains. Classically, deep connections between systems are a barrier to interoperability, as they encourage the undisciplined to build deep dependencies. The necessary abstractions, even as they become more abstract, and perhaps even more semantic, must bear less and less connection to underlying praxis.

In particular, I have been considering the communications between the engineered systems deep in buildings and the power grid during an emergency. These "engineered systems" use very precise, but unfortunately poorly abstracted interactions to operate within their domains. As these systems begin interacting amongst themselves, either tor create enterprise interactions within the building, or to support smart grid / smart building interactions, they are moving to formal ontologies based upon very large scale semantic efforts such as buildingSmart, and formal IDMs between adjacent semantic areas. These interactions fit well into the formal hierarchical process John has described; and working in those areas, I agressively advocate a similar position.

In Emergency Response scenarios, wherein these systems are supposed to share situation awareness with, and perhaps even accept control commands from the first responder, these formalisms are a hindrance. As Malcom Gladwell cited in Blink, too much information and precision can actually interfere in proper decision making. The first responder needs imprecisie information that is good enough that has a basis in and relation to underlying formal ontology. This upper ontology looks much more like folksonomy, in that it is fuzzy, perhaps hard to define, and is based upon whatever is most usefull to the community involved in whatever the local scenario is.

I like to describe this as a a situational ontology wherein value is expressed based upon a formal underlying hierarchy of semantics, but this may well be just my ignorance of a field in which many on this forum have thought harder, and read more widely than I. That uper level ontology, that discovery and communication of value, often feels to me more like a foksonomy.
job of sales

In another context, a skeptical executiive told me to "define the ways we discuss and describe value; this gives the [sales] agent the tools to define the value proposition of our business." For him, ontology is his business value proposition. For the first responder, ontology is the framework for situational awareness. For security, ontology is the situation awareness derived from polcy based event management.

In each of these, I see a upper layer of transition from formal semantics/ontology to folksonomy...

"When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us." -- Alexander Graham Bell
Toby Considine
Co-Chair, OASIS Technical Advisory Board
Chair, OASIS oBIX TC http://www.oasis-open.org
Phone: (919)619-2104
blog: www.NewDaedalus.com

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