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Re: [ontolog-forum] standard ontology

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2009 12:37:52 -0500
Message-id: <4991BB70.4020705@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat C, Pat H, and Ian,    (01)

PC> ... there is the practical question of whether we intend
 > to recommend one foundation ontology as the basis for the
 > formalization, or take a hands-off position and let a
 > thousand incompatible flowers bloom?    (02)

Three points:  (1) there is no foundation ontology that anyone
could hope to recommend, (2) there are already thousands of
flowers and weeds, and (3) there is no consensus about which
are the flowers and which are the weeds.    (03)

Therefore, we cannot recommend any single ontology, and we
must accommodate the totality of those that have proved to
be useful to at least some narrow group.    (04)

PH> Nobody heeds such an all-encompassing ontology, however.
 > Each standardization effort is devoted to a relatively narrow
 > range of topics and concerns, compared to the full range of
 > all possible standards.    (05)

I strongly agree.    (06)

IB> ... you need to get your hands dirty and look at the legacy
 > data.  You can carry out academic exercises mapping models and
 > doing gap analyses, but these never work when it comes to the
 > real world.    (07)

Certainly.  Anything that has lasted long enough to become
a legacy has passed the most important test of all:  it works.
That is an enormous advantage over proposals that have not
been tested or deployed on any practical application.    (08)

PC> I feel strongly that getting some agreement among at least
 > one large user community on the content of *some* foundation
 > ontology should be a very high priority objective until it
 > is accomplished, regardless of how often we have talked
 > about it.  Other tasks are IMHO at least secondary, and
 > perhaps dependent on the first.    (09)

No, most definitely *not*!  I strongly agree with Pat Hayes:    (010)

PH> Getting such agreement is both unnecessary and probably
 > impossible.  It would achieve nothing other the creation of
 > a huge and unusable formalization which would then be ignored
 > for almost all applications, being too unwieldy and needlessly
 > complicated and mired in pointless controversy to be usefully
 > applied to any particular domain.    (011)

A working system always trumps a pie-in-the-sky dream.    (012)

As a theoretician, I am in favor of dreaming.  But as somebody
who worked at a profit-making institution for 30 years, I
realize the importance of grounding those dreams in reality.    (013)

Therefore, the primary requirement for any theoretical proposal
must be a smooth migration path from where we are today (namely,
the thousands of weeds and flowers) to the promised land flowing
with milk and honey.    (014)

John    (015)

PS:  That metaphor of milk and honey reminds me of a cartoon
that showed Moses leading a bunch of people dressed in flowing
robes, dripping with sticky white stuff.  We need a migration
path that takes advantage of the sticky stuff, instead of
getting mired in it.    (016)

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