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Re: [ontolog-forum] standard ontology

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2009 12:25:36 -0500
Message-id: <49930A10.1050305@xxxxxxxx>
Patrick Cassidy wrote:
> My difficulty with just waiting until some "large and economically important
> community of practice" evolves is, that on the basis of the experience of
> the past fifteen years, this process could take several decades, or longer.    (01)

Do I understand Pat to say that there won't be significant commercial 
interests that depend on ontologies for "several decades"?  That would 
argue strongly against the significance of "foundation ontologies" for 
the same time period.    (02)

> If here is any truth to the estimate that lack of semantic interoperability
> costs the country $100 billion per year in lost productivity, then it
> appears to me to be foolishness to let a few trillion dollars of losses
> accumulate rather than to attack the problem directly by creating that
> "community of practice" by funding its creation.      (03)

I agree with this, at least in principle.  Where we can see value in 
creating ontologies for use in various interactions in some domain, it 
is appropriate to fund their development.  The biosciences and medical 
communities have done a great deal in that very regard.  And they have 
expanding communities of practice.  We NIST see value in constructing 
"supply chain" and "logistics" ontologies for improving semantic 
interoperability in software involved in international trade; and we are 
trying to support that.  And there are other such activities in 
agriculture, finance, military and "intelligence".    (04)

But most of those activities have not found "upper ontologies" useful in 
constructing their domain ontologies.  Our experience is that there is 
no disagreement in the understanding that an engine block is a physical 
object that is counted, while oil is a physical substance that is sold 
in volumes or weights.  The disagreement is in whether a shipment 
becomes two shipments when it is split at a consolidation center, and in 
exactly who has which responsibilities in "change of ownership at the 
dock", and in which actual event determines the date that starts the 
clock on a 30-day forfeiture clause.  The upper ontologies are directed 
toward concerns of the former kinds, which are _not_ semantic 
interoperability issues, but not with the latter kinds, which _are_ 
semantic interoperability issues.    (05)

> That is the essence of the
> proposal that we fund a consortium of 100 or so participants who will
> develop, and then  test in their own applications, some foundation ontology
> suitable to all of them.  The sooner such a community does develop, the
> sooner the benefits of a common ontology can begin to be felt.    (06)

Pat mistakes creating a consortium of 100 participants whose ostensible 
purpose is to create a "foundation ontology" for "creating communities 
of practice".  It is very likely that these people will represent 30 
different communities of interest, and at least 3 of them will be pure 
philosopher gangs who are all about consistency with varios sacred 
theories and disagree with each other.  Communities of practice _use_ an 
ontology and derive benefit from it.  How will these folk use the 
foundation ontology and derive benefit from it?  What will it enable 
that they aren't already doing in their application community?    (07)

But perhaps I misunderstand.  The 100 people can't possibly be drawn 
from existing communities of practice of any significance, because such 
communities don't exist now, and won't exist for several decades.  Right?    (08)

> One might argue with the estimate of losses due to semantic interoperability    (09)

No one argues with the losses.  The question is:  How does creating a 
"foundation ontology" by funding 100 people reduce those losses? and by 
how much?    (010)

We have created 5 or 6 "upper" or "foundation" ontologies, without yet 
creating significant communities of practice for them, or seeing any 
reduction in the "semantic interoperability" cost.  Like XML and 
Webservices, they don't of themselves solve any "semantic 
interoperability" problem.  But unlike XML and Webservices, they don't 
solve any other interoperability problem, either.    (011)

It is probably not worth spending 50M$ on SETI trying to contact an 
alien civilization that has already solved the problem and could teach 
us how.  Is funding the 100 people more likely to produce a solution?    (012)

>   Waiting is not cost-effective.  Why lose all that time?      (013)

As one who has spent 7 years of his professional life developing 
international standards that no one ever really used, I can say that 
making another standard for no known user community is wasting the real 
time of real people -- truly losing that time.  It is not what anyone 
with any real competence should be doing.    (014)

But it may be beneficial to many communities of practice to spend the 
money to put 100 selected individuals in a room to develop a worthless 
standard, so that they stop interfering with worthwhile efforts. ;-)    (015)

-Ed    (016)

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    (017)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST,
  and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (018)

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