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Re: [ontolog-forum] Spottiswoode contribution to ConferenceCall_2009_03_

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "Ontology Summit 2009" <ontology-summit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Christopher Spottiswoode" <cms@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 2009 21:54:33 +0200
Message-id: <C14BB2347C8E468F9B9EAF7E2C8C96EC@Dev>
My apologies to all for my announcement appended below, under 
the above subject-line, which fell completely flat when I 
withdrew from the March 26 pre-Summit ConferenceCall panel at 
almost the last moment.  Worse, it led some of you to scratch 
around in vain looking for the slideshow I had advertised - 
sorry!    (01)

I withdrew because I had eventually concluded that there was too 
much of a mismatch between the would-be grand scope of my 
planned pitch and the more immediate orientation the Summit and 
its preparations were adopting.    (02)

Nonetheless, my project still falls squarely within the Summit's 
theme, "Towards Ontology-based Standards", as I had motivated it 
in my post now archived here: 
http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontology-summit/2009-03/msg00005.html.    (03)

(You might even look at my first web page on this project, 
http://jeffsutherland.com/oopsla96/spottisw.html, and consider 
all occurrences, in their contexts, of "standard".  In view of 
some key aspects of the architecture you might also do likewise 
for "abstract" and "orthogonal".)    (04)

So this post is timed to precede the Summit as I would still 
like to think that some of those present might want to be aware 
of how one might firmly anticipate our industry's melding - in 
due course - of ontologies and standards in a more thorough and 
elegant way than presently conventional technologies permit one 
to conceive.    (05)

(Of course, none of my efforts are intended to detract from the 
Summit occasion as ably put together by Steve Ray and team.  On 
the contrary, I see a fine complementarity between our 
respective emphases, his clearly being more capable of immediate 
returns out there on the standards ground.  That thereby helps 
prepare that ground and seeds for its deeper ploughing...)    (06)

As in the above-mentioned motivating post's point 3, the 
critical difference involves "how the notion of orthogonality 
relative to ontologies enables a novel 'Separation of Concerns' 
and consequent component architecture for Information Systems, 
scalable all the way up to future Internet sizes and 
intricacies, thanks to many different and fascinating but 
highly-relevant considerations."  I also repeat that post's 
point 4 on the implications for standards:    (07)

> 4.  Component architecture (and associated interoperabilities) 
> is where the "standard" aspect comes to the fore at its most 
> basic level.  More than that, it does so in a way that will 
> also imply Barry Smith's statement, likewise on the Conference 
> Call of March 12, that "ontologies should die."  They and 
> their disciplines become an integral part of how everything is 
> specified, hangs together and executes on networks of 
> computers, enabling human collaboration.  Reformed and 
> newly-relevant standards are applied as an integral aspect of 
> the products they regulate.  Ontologies merge with their IS 
> realizations as their indispensable frameworks (in a manner of 
> speaking).  Given the exponential penetration of IT throughout 
> the modern economy, the same trend will, in due course, in the 
> open market, generalize and spread to virtually all standards 
> domains.  Standards themselves will become nothing more than 
> the upper layers of group consensus in our world of 
> multi-niched but interoperating consensus processes in a 
> better-oiled universal market.    (08)

The Summit's plan is also to set some practical projects in 
motion.  So I shall now tie together the various loose ends I 
had left lying around, and indicate a path forwards with what I 
can clearly see is an initial project of a feasible scale, in 
which I am inviting collaboration.    (09)

Perhaps at least one or two Ontolog Forum members and/or their 
colleagues or institutions might be tempted to join in?    (010)

Prior to my withdrawal I had been gearing up to introduce that 
project in my few short minutes on the ConferenceCall.  As I had 
put it in my email below, this was the small initial project:    (011)

"Towards demonstrating a new ontology-based standard component 
architecture for IT applications"    (012)

The slideshow motivating that initial project is now available 
for download as 
http://TheMainstream.info/RideTheMainstream20090325.pps, in 
exactly the rather hastily-cobbled shape in which it would have 
appeared on the ConferenceCall website had I not withdrawn.    (013)

That website's home page introduces the main project more fully, 
but as you can see, the website is still very much a 
work-in-progress.    (014)

However, as a brief introduction the slideshow does give some 
indication of the role of orthogonality in the IS application 
architecture.  To understand that role you must see it as in the 
slideshow, namely as underlying the planned AOS or Application 
Operating System which will bring life to the whole notion once 
"we" (i.e. you and me?) can complete some more programming.    (015)

At present I am busy making minor adjustments to the slideshow 
and expanding the notes (though no slides will be dropped or 
added).  An early start is already online, starting from 
http://TheMainstream.info/RTM.html, but many more annotations 
are still intended.  So any specific comments or questions from 
you now would more surely get an immediate in-context response 
than when I have moved on from this slideshow-annotation task. 
(Hint:  If you see the familar graphic-not-found icon on one of 
the pages, most noticeably on slide 10, just be patient, the 
graphics will arrive!  They are being downloaded in resizable 
form.)    (016)

In the meantime I want to try to address the kind of comment 
that will surely pop into your minds very soon, if it has not 
done so already.  It might even be along lines such as these:    (017)

"Surely this guy is some kind of nutcase!  He's a reader of 
Ontolog so hasn't he picked up John Sowa's warning not long ago 
against any Silver Bullet claim for this domain?"  (I won't go 
so far as to raise the conceivable charge of incoherence, as 
I'll knit it all together, and multidimensionally, in due 
course.)    (018)

Fair enough!  But yes, I obviously did get John's message. 
Nonetheless I do still see The Mainstream Architecture for 
Common Knowledge together with the canonical AOS as the right 
kind of foundation for silver bullets for many problems in many 
domains for just the right kinds of reasons.  So please be 
patient with me as I give what is perhaps the shortest answer 
which might carry any weight at this stage (other than producing 
a Metaset program running as so long promised!  (Sure, but that 
will convince 99% of you and right now all I need is 1%...)):    (019)

I shall argue that one's instinctive dismissal of silver bullets 
does not apply here, at least seeing how the whole construction 
proposed has been built on a systematic recognition of our 
ambient complexity and hence of the inevitability of our 
recurrent oversimplifications of it, some of the more extreme of 
which condemn us to the bad silver bullet syndrome.    (020)

More positively - since this *is* supposedly The Mainstream - 
this silver bullet of the allegedly non-fallacious kind even 
involves greatly exploiting how our cognition has evolved in 
implicit recognition of the impossibility - and undesirability - 
of any ontological reductionism such as ontologists easily stray 
into ... by concocting foundational or upper ontologies as 
supposed silver bullets!    (021)

I start once again with my oft-repeated high-level 
generalization of the supposed need addressed here, namely, for 
a system "to help us simplify complexity together," implicitly 
"without unduly oversimplifying it."    (022)

(Now you must please excuse some very narcissistic 
autobiography.  It does however play a merely temporary role, 
hopefully addressing the "nutcase" suspicion, so can of course 
be totally expunged from the picture once that need has fallen 
away.  The story is of a very ordinary person in rather 
extraordinary circumstances.)    (023)

The "simplifying complexity" notion first dawned dimly in my own 
poor mind in 1963, as a kind of intersection between my 
mathematical and scientific background with the South African 
political situation of the time.    (024)

Our country was then in the grip of that arch silver bullet high 
priest, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, social engineer par excellence and 
imposer of his "Grand Apartheid" vision of "Separate 
 Development" along racial lines.  I had just spent over 4 years 
of undergraduate and early post-graduate study at the 
Afrikaans-medium university where he had been a student and then 
psychology professor at the age of 27.  I happened to have been 
a class-mate and residence-mate (UK college-mate or US 
dorm-mate) of his son, Hendrik junior, so I had spent many many 
hours with him and his friends, trying to understand their 
position and convince them of the folly of it.  All in vain, of 
course.  So much for would-be ontologies or conceptual schemas 
for "reality", such self-reinforcing enslavers of minds!    (025)

But, and partly in reaction to the supposed biblical 
underpinnings of apartheid, as a young science student I had my 
own folly, in the form of different kinds of would-be 
ontologies:  physical and biological reductionisms of mental 
phenomena.  So when in 1963 I went on a scholarship to do a PhD 
in pure mathematics at Cambridge University (UK) I eagerly 
attended the then annual feature at the student Rationalist 
Society, the talk "Is Vitalism dead?" by that other high priest, 
Francis Crick.  His would-be final nail in the Vitalism coffin 
was a demonstration of supposed machine "creativity":  the new 
proof by a computer program, undiscovered by human 
mathematicians, that the base angles of an isosceles triangle 
are equal (In the triangles ABC and ACB,  AB=AC, AC=AB, BC=CB, 
therefore the triangles are congruent so angle B = angle C.) 
But that unduly glib example did alert me to the reductionist's 
need to take creativity seriously.  So when Arthur Koestler's 
"The Act of Creation" appeared in 1964 I bought and read it with 
great motivation, and indeed, you can see in the slideshow what 
a key role his explanation of creativity, in many domains, plays 
in The Mainstream Architecture for Common Knowledge.    (026)

Meanwhile, fortunately, one of the mental phenomena my own 
reductionism supposedly explained was the "Road to Damascus" 
euphoria when the mind can newly "see" - whether truly or not - 
a complex situation in terms of an abstract theory, in some 
welcome resolution of a welter of tensions, and thereby 
hopefully gain at least scientific or social advantage.  At 
least, that view seemed to undermine biblical justifications for 
anything, including Apartheid.  But any such would-be 
explanation or "insight" self-reflectively casts any supposed 
silver bullet such as itself in systematic doubt!  So I dropped 
mathematics and set about trying to write a book under the title 
"The Phenomenon of Knowledge", partly under the influence of 
Teilhard de Chardin's "The Phenomenon of Man", but explicitly 
targeted, however naively, at improving cogitations in the 
complex South African situation, that excellent and for me more 
amenable microcosm of many global issues.  That led to over 3 
years of informal study at Cambridge, much of which at the knees 
of philosopher Donald KacKinnon, "the most influential 
philosopher of religion in Britain during the twentieth 
 century." (from the description on 
of a 1989 volume of essays in his honour.  (And yes, I am aware 
that there are many, say, French or German, who might be 
surprised to hear that there were any British philosophers of 
religion at all in that century.  But MacKinnon _was_ most worth 
listening to on anything philosophical or theological, on Kant 
too...))    (027)

I wrote MacKinnon a status update for the start of the 1966 
academic year, shortly after the assassination of Prime Minister 
Hendrik Verwoerd in the South African Parliament, relating how I 
had hoped, during the Summer vacation, to have made a good new 
start on my projected book, but "all that had come out" was the 
pair of essays I submitted to him.  They set out my 
interpretation of Homer's Scylla and Charybdis (which, now more 
than ever, I believe to be both faithful and original), and my 
agate metaphor for Ontology (as now introduced in the 
slideshow).    (028)

I know MacKinnon was impressed by them, however, and those two 
essays or mini-theses, by this then-25-year-old who had chanced 
upon an uncommon kind of path and since stuck with it, do indeed 
represent and encapsulate the philosophical foundations of The 
Mainstream Architecture for Common Knowledge.    (029)

All those events were prior to any involvement in computerized 
information systems by me or by any of my then teachers.  So the 
prime Demand as I then conceived it certainly preceded the 
proposed IT Supply!  And, with that smattering of scientific, 
mathematical, political and philosophical background, 'I 
proceeded,' as related near the beginning of 
http://jeffsutherland.com/oopsla98/SpottBioComp.html, 'with my 
plan of going into data-processing as a handy and relevant way 
of learning about real and practical complexity. As I explained 
it to my future employer's interviewer, it was "to learn about 
administration", and to a mystified friend (likewise 
mathematically-trained) on his way to becoming a sociology 
professor, it was "to study change".'    (030)

Scylla, the monster of oversimplification, has of course extreme 
examples in supposed Road to Damascus conversions and silver 
bullet syndromes.  (John S, does that reassure you at all that I 
have probably reconsidered my "silver bullet" announcement 
rather searchingly?  Anyway, only time and some more programming 
will finally tell whether I have done so with sufficient 
relentlessness.  Or maybe you can put me straight now?)    (031)

For various perspectives on the extensive Homeric metaphor, 
Google 'scylla metaset spottiswoode', also ask Google to "repeat 
the search with the omitted results included", and in its linked 
pages find "scylla" or "charybdis".  Or Google '"Beyond 
Apartheid" metaset', also with omitted results, and consider 
buying a copy of the 1986 book with that title from me for its 
more systematic and barely dated presentation opening its "Part 
III - Philosophy").  Perhaps the best short indication on the 
web of the extremely wide if not universal significance of the 
Homeric patterns and anti-patterns for cognitive behaviour in 
the face of complexity is the table and few short paragraphs of 
context on either side of it at 
Or else just wait until I can write it up more systematically on 
TheMainstream.info!    (032)

I shall now continue annotating the slideshow and adding further 
material on the websites.  So this is a good moment to express 
your questions, doubts, dismissals and mere opinions on this 
entire project, as I shall welcome being led by them in the new 
material to come.    (033)

Thank you for reading this far, and I look forward to your 
inputs of whatever kind you wish, whether on Ontolog or offline.    (034)

Christopher    (035)

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Christopher Spottiswoode" <cms@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>; 
"Ontology Summit 2009" <ontology-summit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Thursday, March 26, 2009 12:01 AM
Subject: Spottiswoode contribution to ConferenceCall_2009_03_26    (036)

Hello all,    (037)

This post introduces my pitch during the Conference Call run-up,
to OntologySummit2009, "Towards Ontology-based Standards", as at 
http://ontolog.cim3.net/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?OntologySummit2009.    (038)

This post will also function as an indirect "MACK basics - 5th 
and now final instalment", closing that series of posts to the 
Ontolog Forum.  The 5th instalment was to have been subtitled 
"exploiting the orthogonality in abstraction", but that theme is 
now at least introduced in the slideshow introduced below, 
building on the earlier instalments in the series.    (039)

As you can see on the first link above, 
http://ontolog.cim3.net/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?ConferenceCall_2009_03_26, I 
am to speak under this title (which I had myself proposed):    (040)

"Towards demonstrating a new ontology-based standard component 
architecture for IT applications"    (041)

I am suggesting that course as a project which one or more of 
the Ontolog Community or Summit participants might wish to 
become involved in.  As well as being highly relevant, as it 
seems to me, to the Summit theme, it would function as a first 
step of the "Ride The Mainstream!" project introduced at the 
outset of the slideshow and fursther described on my website 
www.TheMainstream.info.    (042)

My original motivation to Steve Ray, the organizer of the 
Conference Call, for my contribution is now at 
and I trust it speaks for itself.  Anyway, Steve did have the 
courage to accept it!    (043)

So I have drawn up a slideshow on which to base my presentation, 
but at 31 slides for a 5 - 10 minute slot it is clearly far too 
long.  I do nonetheless plan to fit my presentation into 5 
minutes and at least introduce some highlights of the slideshow 
as an introduction to the project I am proposing for the 
Summit's consideration, and ultimately to the entire "Ride The 
Mainstream!" project itself.    (044)

So if you are planning to take part in the Conference Call, any 
time you could spend downloading that slideshow from the 
Conference Call page, 
and at least browsing it, would greatly improve your chances of 
understanding my presentation.  So I would urge you to undertake 
that exercise.    (045)

Please do not hesitate to ask any questions about that slideshow 
or either project, whether via the Ontolog list or offline to 
me.    (046)

Christopher     (047)

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