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Re: [ontolog-forum] standard ontology

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 18 Feb 2009 11:45:49 -0500
Message-id: <499C3B3D.60307@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Azamat, Pat C, et al.,    (01)

Whenever anybody proposes a project to build a large formal
ontology, I bring up the Cyc project, which was started in 1984.
In June 2003, DARPA sponsored a two-day review of the Cyc project
by a panel of people working in AI, linguistics, and related fields.
The general consensus was    (02)

  * Cyc is a unique and valuable resource:  Since 1984, 650 person
    years and $65 million had been spent to define and axiomatize
    about 600,000 concept types.    (03)

  * Support for Cyc should be continued, and it should be made
    freely available for research purposes.    (04)

  * The Cyc researchers had acquired a great deal of experience
    about the process of developing and using a large formal
    ontology, and their successes and failures should be
    documented in a series of detailed reports.    (05)

In the early 1990s, the original monolithic hierarchy of the
Cyc ontology was reorganized as a collection of "microtheories":    (06)

  * Microtheories are subontologies that may be inconsistent
    with one another.    (07)

  * As of 2003, Cyc had about 6,000 microtheories.    (08)

  * Cyc can create new microtheories dynamically to represent
    modalities or some agent's knowledge and belief.    (09)

  * But there is a need for different microtheories even at the
    upper levels of the ontology.    (010)

There were also many questions about the relationship of Cyc to
other R & D efforts.  Two of the reviewers were George Miller,
who started the very widely used and much cheaper WordNet, and
Chuck Fillmore, who had started the Framenet project.  Following
is the consensus about those projects:    (011)

  * Lexical resources such as WordNet and Framenet have different
    goals, but they are complementary to Cyc.    (012)

  * They have proved to be valuable for natural language projects.    (013)

  * The amount of investment in those projects has been modest,
    but the ROI has been considerable.  Extending and linking them
    to Cyc and would require relatively modest funding.    (014)

  * Many related issues should be explored.    (015)

One of the reviewers was Ed Feigenbaum, who had been Lenat's
thesis adviser at Stanford.  Feigenbaum was also one of the chief
proponents and advisers for the Cyc project from the earliest
proposals.  During the discussion period, he asked a question:    (016)

  * Lenat had claimed that when the knowledge base reached a
    critical size, new knowledge could be added much faster.    (017)

  * Recently, the size of the KB has increased significantly.    (018)

  * Has Cyc now reached a critical mass that would support
    an exponential increase in size?    (019)

Another reviewer was Fritz Lehmann, who had worked on Cyc for
several years.  He answered Feigenbaum's question:  The major
reason for the recent increase was a managerial decision.
Lenat wanted to make the knowledge base seem more impressive
and asked the Cyclers to add a lot of easily defined concepts.    (020)

After that review, DARPA reduced the funding for Cyc and
required them to document their research.  For copies of
their reports, see    (021)

    http://www.cyc.com    (022)

They also began the Cyc Foundation to make the subset OpenCyc
freely available.  See    (023)

    http://www.cycfoundation.org/    (024)

AA> But the real fact is that the project of Standard Ontology
 > is not only a historically unique scientific and engineering
 > enterprise, but also too extensive, both in its scale of
 > knowledge, funding stakeholders and research participants.
 > Thus it will be expensive...    (025)

It's only unique if you ignore Cyc, which also had a very large
amount of knowledge, many funding stakeholders (including MCC,
Bellcore, Eastman Kodak, pharmaceutical companies, Microsoft,
government agencies, etc), and many of the best researchers
in the field as employees, consultants, participants, users,
and reviewers.    (026)

PC> The estimated cost, $30M, may be low, but that is not because
 > of the size of the ontology required, but the number of
 > participants needed to be sure that the FO can translate among
 > the alternative representations that the participants may want
 > for their local use.    (027)

The Cyc project was initiated in 1984 with goals that are
a superset of anything that I have ever heard for the FO.
Is there anything about the FO that is different from Cyc?
If so, what and why?    (028)

The groups that might fund the FO know the Cyc project very,
very well.  And they know that they never got much, if any
return on their investment.  You can't get a penny from them
unless you can explain in detail...    (029)

  1. What are you proposing that is different from Cyc?    (030)

  2. What makes you think that you can be more successful
     than Cyc?    (031)

  3. Why don't you start with Cyc as a foundation for the FO?    (032)

We've already heard the arguments that Cyc isn't open source.
But the cost of acquiring and adding more material to OpenCyc
would be vastly less than $30 million.    (033)

John    (034)

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