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Re: [ontolog-forum] Next steps in using ontologies as standards

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 12:23:29 -0500
Message-id: <49639391.4020205@xxxxxxxx>
Patrick Cassidy wrote:
> John's comments about standards may be true of some that have been developed
> in the past, but I believe that a foundation ontology that will serve as a
> standard of meaning for multiple independent developers does indeed have to
> be developed by a large group representing many points of view.      (01)

I think the experience with medical ontologies demonstrates exactly the 
opposite.  When you have multiple significantly different points of 
view, the solution is not one inconsistent mess or 7 years of bickering. 
  The solution is multiple 'foundation ontologies', each well crafted to 
represent one "body of shared meaning" -- one consistent point of view.    (02)

An ontology is for a _community_ of "multiple independent developers" 
and if the developers share the domain but not the viewpoint, they are 
not a community.    (03)

> It is
> important to recognize that a foundation ontology that has enough of the
> fundamental, primitive elements to allow description of complex concepts in
> many different fields will be a lot more complex than the typical standard
> developed by a volunteer committee.     (04)

I bristled at the pejorative and presumptuous tone of this, until I read 
the next sentence.    (05)

> In order to be able to represent almost
> all of the concepts people want to talk about, it has to be at least as
> complex as a human language - not just the grammar, but the basic vocabulary
> as well.      (06)

Now that I am fully convinced that Patrick is mad, I can forgive his 
tone.  ;-)    (07)

The existing "standard upper ontology" work speaks for itself.  Some of 
it is very good work by well led volunteer committees.  How widely 
applicable it is has proved to be is debatable.  But not content with 
this demonstration of the limits of our competence, Patrick has a much 
more formidable task in his head.    (08)

This has several implications:
>  (1) it will be time-consuming to learn how to use such a standard:
>  (2) therefore no one will bother learning it unless they have a strong
> motivation ...
>  (3) Therefore, a plausible and (I believe) optimal and fastest route to
> developing a foundation ontology that will be widely accepted, and serve as
> a functioning standard of meaning, is to fund developing of such a standard
> by a large group.    (09)

with a great deal of money and no further hope of saving the whales.    (010)

> (4) The problem of different alternative formalisms for representing the
> same concept can be solved by allowing all alternative representations,
> along with translations mechanisms ("bridging axioms") to convert one view
> to another, making all logically compatible views equally part of the
> standard.  ...
> (5) no existing ontology was developed by such a group, and the most complex
> one (Cyc) is still largely proprietary.  Prior experience with foundation
> ontologies is not close enough to this approach to have any predictive power
> about its potential for success.    (011)

save one.  Most of us will be long dead ere there be any such potential.    (012)

I encourage Patrick to continue dreaming the impossible dream, and I can 
only hope he does reach his unreachable star.  But I have smaller 
windmills to tilt at.    (013)

-Ed    (014)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                FAX: +1 301-975-4694    (015)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST,
  and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (016)

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