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Re: [ontolog-forum] Is there something I missed?

To: Steve Newcomb <srn@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2009 14:56:12 -0600
Message-id: <F9E72CC5-561A-4D3B-A1D5-187148CB2B11@xxxxxxx>

On Feb 3, 2009, at 1:18 PM, Steve Newcomb wrote:    (01)

> Concern for the welfare of generations to come, sufficient to  
> motivate careful examination of current trends and technologies from  
> first principles, is in very short supply these days. It will come  
> back into fashion, one way or another. Alas, it appears that no  
> engagement by me in conversation with you will be helpful or  
> revealing.
> Deprecatory name-calling is one way to prevent dangerous dialogs  
> from occurring, and this is not the first occasion on which name- 
> calling has been used against my efforts to bring forward a less- 
> often-heard perspective on the W3C, RDF, and the noxious belief that  
> it's good to confound web addressing with subject identification. (I  
> note you say nothing of substance here about that or anything else.  
> Bad behavior, Pat.)    (02)

If you want to have an online discussion about the status of URIs as  
referring names, and the proper relationships, if any, between their  
role as identifiers and as denoting names, then I'm game for that.  
This is an active topic of debate right now in the SWeb world, as Im  
sure you know. But lets keep that discussion technical. Anyone who is  
interested ought to at least be aware what is meant by the following  
phrases: http-range-14, information resource, 303 redirects,  
awww:representation. Googling them will get you a lot of archived  
debate on this issue.    (03)

> The process of science requires dialog. Since you're the one who's  
> closing the dialog, it's ironic that you characterize my perspective  
> as not-science, lumping it with creationism and worse.    (04)

I said that my reasons for not debating you were similar to those for  
not debating creationists. The characteristic tenor which I seemed to  
recognize in your message wasn't to do with its content, but rather  
its hysterical and passionate tone, and the way it mixed technical  
observations with political, moral, and at times quasi-religious  
views. It was, and your reply also is, revealing of a mind-set which  
is sure that everyone who disagrees with you is wicked or part of some  
vast world-wide conspiracy, so that debates will rapidly become ad  
hominem. I don't really care what your actual views are, to be frank.  
I'm not going to engage in debate with this kind of a stance, no  
matter what it is about.    (05)

> I take comfort in the fact that even some great scientific  
> breakthroughs have been characterized as not-science by scientists  
> who should have known better, but who were more focused on  
> maintaining the status quo than on the exploration of ideas and  
> things. I regret that I'm forced to conclude that your behavior here  
> appears to place you in the latter category.    (06)

> It would still find it interesting to discuss the problem of  
> preserving, honoring, and exploiting infinite ontological diversity  
> in a world of unpredictable human affairs, with people who are  
> interested in developing and exploiting diverse human capital.    (07)

So would I. And I see absolutely no barriers to doing this using Web  
technology, nor do I think that the W3C or any of its staff are  
interested in limiting such a vision in any way.    (08)

> Those who are interested in exclusively machine-based inferencing  
> may not be interested, but within my own limited perspective, the  
> problem of exploiting machine inference in combination with human  
> insight, and in the problem of garnering human insight wherever it  
> can be garnered, is very interesting. Scientifically interesting,  
> and not at all conspiracy-theoretical or creationistic.    (09)

Agreed, though I think its stretching the meaning of "scientific" a  
little. But no harm done.    (010)

Pat    (011)

> Pat Hayes wrote:
>> On Feb 3, 2009, at 10:16 AM, Steve Newcomb wrote:
>> ... a political (?) rant, which I am not even going to try to  
>> debate, for the same reasons I will not debate conspiracy theorists  
>> and creationists. I will just observe that anyone who feels that  
>> the world would be better served by something different from the  
>> Web is perfectly free to invent this better alternative and promote  
>> it, or even sell it. I would advise starting by having someone  
>> build you a really sexy website.
>> Pat
>>> Pat, the history of the W3C speaks for itself, in terms that no  
>>> apologist can completely obscure. Since its founding by three  
>>> competing system vendors, much window-dressing has been added,  
>>> including its many me-too academic members who trade their  
>>> participation for inclusion in its public and private funding  
>>> games. But the W3C's institutional foundation is unchanged. Since  
>>> you claim that the W3C is not, in fact, a vendor consortium, the  
>>> burden is upon you to answer the question: "Why does Tim Berners- 
>>> Lee personally make all the decisions?" The correct answer, which  
>>> amazingly few people fully appreciate, is that the W3C is a  
>>> dictatorship because it *must* be in order to allow its members to  
>>> engage in members-only conversations about how the Web will  
>>> actually work. The W3C meets the definition of a "conspiracy in  
>>> restraint of trade" as defined by the Sherman Antitrust Act (an  
>>> 1890 U.S. law designed to benefit the public by limiting the power  
>>> of cartels and monopolies). But W3C's members are not prosecutable  
>>> as co-conspirators under the Sherman Act, at least theoretically  
>>> because Sir Tim makes all the decisions, and all the members-only  
>>> conversations are regarded as merely advisory to him. This is a  
>>> fact, not a mere perception, and no amount of spin-artistry can  
>>> change it, nor can gestures toward W3C's splendid array of public- 
>>> spirited-seeming window-dressings.
>>> Does the W3C's work to promote Tim's "Semantic Web" vision  
>>> actually benefit the public? It probably does, but the real  
>>> question is, would a different vision benefit the public more? I  
>>> claim that it would. I make an even more disquieting claim: that  
>>> W3C's deliberate confounding of subject identification with web- 
>>> resource identification amounts to nothing less than an attempt to  
>>> seek rents on all kinds of ideas. If the W3C were really  
>>> interested in public benefit, as opposed to private benefit, it  
>>> would seek a next-generation Web that would intrinsically tend to  
>>> amalgamate information around subjects of conversation, and that  
>>> would encourage entities *other* than large aggregations of  
>>> capital (entities like you and me, for instance) to share and  
>>> leverage each other's insights, while preserving, honoring, and  
>>> encouraging diversity, including *ontological* diversity (and meta- 
>>> ontological diversity, etc.). The W3C is doing exactly the  
>>> opposite of this. It's trying to build a vast AI system as quickly  
>>> as possible, and it is well prepared to pay for it in the coin of  
>>> civilization's diversity. For the public, it's a bad deal. It's  
>>> not a recipe for world peace and mutual understanding. It's a  
>>> recipe for economic and cultural dominance games and, with "luck",  
>>> empire. (Whose luck? Not the public's.)
>>> It's important to understand that Tim's knighthood recognizes him  
>>> as a member of the economic establishment (a similar but lesser  
>>> royalty-bestowed honor is the aptly-named "Order of the British  
>>> Empire"). While the significance of much of what Tim says is as  
>>> elusive as that of Alan Greenspan's economic forecasts during his  
>>> tenure as Fed Chairman, this much is clear:
>>> (a) He wants us all to use a W3C-designed ontology language.  
>>> Diversity, schmiversity. The W3C universes of discourse shall be  
>>> THE universes of discourse on the Web. And if you're not  
>>> interested in any of the W3C-blessed levels of support for logical  
>>> inferencing, you have little to contribute to the "Semantic Web",  
>>> no matter how much you know, or what you have to offer.
>>> (b) He wants all ideas to be identified via web addresses.
>>> Pat, despite what you say, a web address is just a web address,  
>>> which is why I choose to call it a "web address". Any use of a web  
>>> address as the address of a subject of conversation is (i)  
>>> irrelevant to its use as a web address, unless the subject *is*  
>>> the web address qua web address, (ii) creates ambiguity at the  
>>> very root of all expressions, ambiguity that cannot be resolved in  
>>> a way that maximizes the value of any intellectual commons that  
>>> uses web addresses as subject addresses, and (iii) to the degree  
>>> that the confusion between web addresses and subject addresses is  
>>> publicly accepted, to that same degree rents on publicly-owned  
>>> ideas can be collected by the owners of the domain names that  
>>> appear in the web addresses of those ideas. Talk about  
>>> privatization! The "Semantic Web" creates a technological/legal  
>>> means, at least for aggregations of capital large enough to hire  
>>> teams of lawyers, whereby public conversations about things that  
>>> matter to the public can be more privatized, and more big-media- 
>>> influenced, and even less diverse, than they already are. This  
>>> will not serve the public interest. (Well, indirectly, it might  
>>> serve the public interest by drawing attention to various  
>>> absurdities in existing law, but it seems like a suboptimal way  
>>> forward.)
>>> Economic prosperity is a function of the application of accurate  
>>> knowledge by *every* actor. So why isn't the so-very-publicly- 
>>> minded W3C working to give the *public*, instead of private  
>>> interests, control of the public's own information? This is my  
>>> point: we should not expect the W3C to solve this problem. W3C is  
>>> so constituted as to be unable to solve it. (But I do believe the  
>>> problem can be solved, nevertheless.)
>>> I'm making observations from my own frame of reference, here. My  
>>> frame of reference is, I think, less constrained by the assumption  
>>> that whatever's good for big capital is good for the world, than  
>>> Tim's is. (I note wryly, in the current context, that it used to  
>>> be said that, "What's good for General Motors is good for the  
>>> country.") Pat, you have caricatured my claim that W3C is a vendor  
>>> consortium as a claim that the W3C is the slave of its vendor- 
>>> members. That's not what I said, and I make no such claim. What I  
>>> do claim, and quite accurately, is that W3C's activities serve  
>>> private interests, not public ones. Its guiding RDF vision is  
>>> capitalist-oriented, not commons-oriented. Its activities and  
>>> recommendations have actually *impeded* the development of a  
>>> diverse public intellectual commons. So it's galling, for me, that  
>>> W3C is widely perceived as being a public-benefitting  
>>> organization, when in fact it is a conspiracy in restraint of  
>>> trade, and when in fact its flagship project is fundamentally and  
>>> technically ill-suited to the development of a diverse *public*  
>>> intellectual commons. The W3C is not interested in such a goal,  
>>> but we all should be, except for those who insist that being rich  
>>> means that everyone else is poorer than we are. (Personally, I  
>>> feel just the opposite.)
>>> Pat, your claim that W3C is not a vendor consortium because it  
>>> observably has so many academic members is unworthy of you. I was  
>>> a professor at a well-known public university for 14 years. My  
>>> naivete about where research funds come from, and about the  
>>> reasons why universities join private consortia, did not survive  
>>> that experience. How does yours still survive, I wonder?
>>> Steve Newcomb
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> IHMC (850)434 8903 or (650)494 3973
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>> Pensacola (850)202 4440 fax
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>> phayesAT-SIGNihmc.us http://www.ihmc.us/users/phayes
>    (012)

IHMC                                     (850)434 8903 or (650)494 3973
40 South Alcaniz St.           (850)202 4416   office
Pensacola                            (850)202 4440   fax
FL 32502                              (850)291 0667   mobile
phayesAT-SIGNihmc.us       http://www.ihmc.us/users/phayes    (013)

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