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

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2009 15:49:38 -0500
Message-id: <49778A62.2050209@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Rich,    (01)

That is a very good question:    (02)

 > Is our work producing benefits after all these years?
 > Positive examples would be useful to discuss before we
 > self destruct on these issues.    (03)

We have very few positive examples, but lots of negative ones.
Since the definition of an expert is "somebody who knows
everything that doesn't work," we have lots of experts.    (04)

There were three large projects that were started in the 1980s:    (05)

  1. Cyc began in 1984, soaked up about 70 million dollars of
     research funding by about 2004, and still takes in more
     money from research grants than income from applications.    (06)

  2. The Japan Electronic Dictionary Project (EDR) began in the
     late 1980s, spent quite a few billion yen to define 410,000
     concepts with mappings to English and Japanese, was liquidated
     in 2002, but still has a few people around to collect $20K
     from the few people who are willing to pay for their product.    (07)

  3. WordNet was supported by research grants to George Miller and
     his group at Princeton.  This is the most widely used product,
     largely because the price is right -- free.    (08)

There were also projects that centered around mailing lists such
as this one.  The archives for all of them are on the WWW.    (09)

  - The Shared Reusable Knowledge Base (SRKB) project was started in
    1991 by the Stanford Knowledge Systems Lab with all the usual
    suspects.  Various things came out of it such as reports, some
    miscellaneous software, and the KIF (Knowledge Interchange
    Format).  Mike Genesereth (the primary author of the KIF report)
    and I collaborated with the X3H4 committee to develop parallel
    ANSI standards for KIF and conceptual graphs.  After many fits
    and (re)starts, this project finally led to the ISO standard
    for Common Logic 16 years later.    (010)

    http://www-ksl.stanford.edu/email-archives/srkb.index.html    (011)

  - The Ad Hoc ANSI Committee (a working group of X3T2) met for a
    few years in the late 1990s.  Klaus Tschirra, one of the five
    original founders of SAP, attended one of the meetings and
    invited a bunch of the participants to a one-week workshop in
    Heidelberg in 1998 to develop a foundation for a common ontology.    (012)

    http://www-ksl.stanford.edu/onto-std/    (013)

  - The IEEE working group on a Standard Upper Ontology was
    started in 2000 and still exists as an inactive email list.
    Some things that came out of that project include SUMO and IFF.    (014)

    http://suo.ieee.org/    (015)

There were also projects to develop universal languages for
logic and ontology in the 17th and 18th centuries.  An example
is Leibniz's Universal Characteristic, which encoded primitive
concepts as prime numbers and compound concepts as products of
primes.  Many other prominent philosophers were involved, among
them, Descartes, Kant, and many lesser lights.  As Leibniz said,    (016)

    The art of ranking things in genera and species is of no
    small importance and very much assists our judgment as well
    as our memory. You know how much it matters in botany, not
    to mention animals and other substances, or again moral and
    notional entities as some call them. Order largely depends
    on it, and many good authors write in such a way that their
    whole account could be divided and subdivided according to
    a procedure related to genera and species. This helps one
    not merely to retain things, but also to find them.  And
    those who have laid out all sorts of notions under certain
    headings or categories have done something very useful.    (017)

In 1787, Kant defined his 12 upper-level categories and made
the following pronouncement:    (018)

    If one has the original and primitive concepts, it is easy to
    add the derivative and subsidiary, and thus give a complete
    picture of the family tree of the pure understanding. Since
    at present, I am concerned not with the completeness of the
    system, but only with the principles to be followed, I leave
    this supplementary work for another occasion.  It can easily
    be carried out with the aid of the ontological manuals.    (019)

222 years later, we're still waiting for somebody to complete
this easy task.    (020)

If anyone wants to try, I wish them luck.    (021)

John    (022)

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