I agree with your conclusions.
I would like to make a few related comments. (02)
1. Occam's razor says to avoid creating unnecessary concepts.
The typical upper ontology is cluttered with unused concepts,
because it includes many contexts. For example, the lattice
in Figure 2.6 and 2.7 of your "Knowledge Representation" book
combines all possible combinations of three attributes
which distinguish three different ways of viewing existents. (03)
2. Humans use context to determine the meaning of a concept,
and to ignore unnecessary concepts. (04)
3. The mKR language & mKE program (see http://mkrmke.org)
are designed to support dynamic changes in the ontology depending
on context. Very roughly speaking, mKR combines the features of
Controlled English, UNIX shell and CycL. mKE includes an
OpenCyc interface. (05)
Ayn Rand do speak od mKR done;
mKE do enhance od Real Intelligence done;
knowledge := man do identify od existent done;
knowledge haspart proposition list;
----- Original Message -----
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Friday, February 20, 2009 8:52 AM
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] standard ontology (07)
> Dear Matthew,
> I don't believe that our positions are far apart. We are
> mainly using different ways of talking about similar
> JFS>> I wouldn't claim that upper levels are totally irrelevant,
> >> but that there is no unique upper level that would be ideal
> >> for all purposes.
> MW> That is a bold statement. Can you prove it?
> For starters, consider the interminable debates about 3D vs 4D
> ontologies. I agree with you that a 4D view simplifies many
> of the issues in DB and KB design. But the terminology of
> natural languages is thoroughly grounded in a 3D view, and
> any mapping of the DB or KB to and from ordinary language
> must do some kind of transformation.
> The issue of an objective vs a subjective view creates much
> more diversity than the 3D vs 4D view. Engineering and
> personnel databases tend to ignore subjective issues. But
> such issues are becoming increasingly important for social
> networks, entertainment, politics, crime, terrorism...
> The current ontology proposals barely scratch the surface
> of subjective issues. They define social organizations as
> sets without considering the purpose that causes those sets
> to form. Trying to define even a halfway decent upper level
> for subjective issues is still an open research issue.
> MW> ... if we don't have an explicit upper ontology before we
> > integrate the two sub-ontologies, the fastest way to integrate
> > them will be to discover the implicit upper ontology each has,
> > and then integrate or map those.
> No. Ever since the punch card days of the late 19th century,
> systems designers have developed an extremely effective and
> efficient methodology for dealing with systems with different
> ontologies or no ontology at all: *ignore* the upper levels.
> For example, they look at the terminology that is actually used
> in the interfaces and define the constraints that relate a person
> to name, address, serial number, date of birth, etc., without
> ever defining what is the "essence" of being a human being.
> With that approach, an enormous number of systems with different
> upper levels or no upper level at all can interoperate effectively.
> As I said in the quotation above, I don't believe that an upper
> level is totally irrelevant. As you noted, it can be useful for
> resolving thorny issues in designing a database schema. But
> systems with different schemata have been interoperating for
> over a century -- without any kind of upper level ontology.
> MW> ... in the process industries we have found an upper ontology
> > (ISO 15926) very useful. To be specific, when two people are
> > fighting over what a term like "pump" means, by asking each to
> > place it in the context of an upper ontology, you can find out
> > that one of them is talking about a physical object with a serial
> > number, and the other is talking about a class of physical object
> > you find in a catalogue.
> That is indeed a very important distinction, but it does not
> require an upper level -- or even any explicit ontology whatever.
> Database designers have been very clear about the distinction
> between physical objects and data written on a disk. It's
> lesson #1 in every tutorial on DB design. You need guidelines
> and tutorials for such issues, *not* a universal upper level.
> MW> However, what is also true is that you need nothing like as
> > sophisticated as Cyc to do this, or as sophisticated as most
> > people here would like to be doing. You don't need complex axioms
> > (you hardly need simple ones).
> We are in violent agreement on this point. Following is an
> interchange with Sean B. from an earlier note:
> SB>> Noting some of the comments earlier in the thread, in all
> >> these interactions, one thing I never need to consider is
> >> whether clay or the number seven is an individual.
> JFS> Indeed. Those questions never arise when we interoperate
> > with other drivers on a highway. And they are also irrelevant
> > to suppliers who map a subset of their database to the Amazon DB.
> In the continuation of your note, I suggest one tiny modification:
> replace the word 'ontology' in the next sentence with 'terminology':
> MW> You just need a basic upper ontology [terminology], so that as
> > you bring the ontologies [terminologies] of the systems you are
> > integrating together within it, you see how the different concepts
> > they contain relate to each other in a wider context.
> As soon as you drop the axioms (except perhaps for simple ones
> that relate terms by generalization/specialization or part/whole),
> the difference between a terminology and an ontology vanishes.
> In fact, the overwhelming majority of people who have adopted
> the word 'ontology' are simply rewriting their old familiar
> terminology in a notation such as OWL. With suitable tools,
> they could use semiautomated methods based on controlled English
> to write their terminology in notation that would be equally
> readable by both humans and computers.
> To summarize the issues, I'll make the following observations:
> 1. All interoperations between different agents (human or computer)
> are *always* on a task or domain-dependent basis.
> 2. When one of those agents is a computer, the possible interactions
> are limited to messages in some language, natural or artificial.
> 3. The total domain of interoperability is determined by the set
> of terms (words or other symbols) used in those messages.
> 4. For the purpose of interoperation, the *meaning* of those terms
> is determined by the practical effects that occur as a result
> of those messages.
> 5. No linguistic or philosophical issues about a term other than
> the effects triggered by messages that use it are relevant to
> interoperations among the agents that send/receive the messages.
> 6. Therefore, any methodology for supporting interoperability
> among a group of agents must begin with the terms used in
> the messages that pass among those agents and the effects
> triggered by those messages.
> 7. Anything outside those messages, the terms in them, and the
> effects of the messages is *irrelevant* to interoperability
> among the agents that send/receive those messages.
> Note that only the terminology actually used needs to be aligned.
> Any defining terminology, axioms, or schemata outside the terms
> that occur in the messages do not need to be aligned. For many,
> if not most domains, such terminologies already exist.
> Requiring all interacting systems to switch to a single universal
> schema determined by some upper level ontology would be unrealistic,
> unnecessary, and a waste of time, money, and effort.
> PS: Anybody who has read anything by C. S. Peirce might note that
> my observations above are corollaries of his "pragmatic principle":
> "The elements of every concept enter into logical thought at the
> gate of perception and make their exit at the gate of purposive
> action; and whatever cannot show its passports at both those
> two gates is to be arrested as unauthorized by reason." (CP 5.212)
> For computer agents, those two gates are the send/receive ports for
> messages. Many, but not all of the proposed upper levels should
> "be arrested as unauthorized by reason." The claim that there
> must be only a single upper level should definitely be arrested.
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