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Re: [ontolog-forum] ISO merged ontology effort "MCO"

To: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 13 Apr 2009 11:54:10 -0400
Message-id: <49E36022.10000@xxxxxxxx>

John F. Sowa wrote:    (01)

> EB> ... the purpose of an ISO "study period" is to determine whether
>  > there is a specification or parts of a specification that has
>  > sufficient consensus for standardization and meets some perceived
>  > communal need (either in industry, or in the making of other
>  > standards).
> That is a laudable aim.  But those terms 'specification' and 'parts
> of a specification' are very unclear by themselves.     (02)

Not for an ISO study group.  A standard is a normative specification for 
common practice.  The function is to get consistency of industrial 
practice, interoperability of systems and practices, and agreement on 
things that have commercial value, legal significance, etc.    (03)

The purpose of a study period is to decide whether there is some 
available specification/document or documents, whose content is ripe for 
standardization, that is, on which there is sufficient agreement in 
common practice.  The same idea applies to measuring tire treads, 
packing tomatoes, and creating basis ontologies for software interactions.    (04)

> When it comes
> to ontologies, people tend to focus on the names of the categories
> and their placement in some hierarchy.     (05)

So that is what they standardize.  When it comes to tire treads, people 
tend to focus on remaining lifetime under various road conditions; so 
they standardize measurements that are generally considered to be 
indicative of that.    (06)

> But pioneers in the field,
> such as Aristotle, Leibniz, and Kant, emphasized the *methodology*
> for deriving the categories.    (07)

And I don't doubt that Goodyear and Dunlop and Michelin created the 
methodologies for estimating tire life.    (08)

All the rest of this is about HOW practice in ontology development is 
established, and I have no argument with it.  But WHETHER there is now 
common practice, or a common result of different practices that can be 
used as a basis for further common or diverse practices, is the question 
the study group must answer.    (09)

> EB> The idea that some amalgam of BFO, DOLCE and SUO would have
>  > such consensus would be supported by findings from the study
>  > period that some useful common set of concepts is essentially
>  > identical across these ontologies, differing only in terminology.
> Two points in that comment seem arbitrary:  the phrase 'some amalgam'
> and the choice of BFO, DOLCE, and SUO.  As I said before, Cyc is the
> largest formal ontology on planet earth, and it has undergone almost
> a quarter century of continuous development with contributions from
> many highly respected logicians, linguists, philosophers, and experts
> in artificial intelligence.    (010)

But Cyc is not available to those of us without appropriate clearances 
and a "need to know".  OpenCyc is what is available in that line.  I 
don't know why the U.S. recommendation didn't include OpenCyc. A fair 
guess is that the U.S. contributing body didn't contain an apostle for 
Cyc.  And it is certainly not too late to add it to the work list of the 
study period, by having someone who knows and cares about it participate 
in the study group.    (011)

> The word 'amalgam' makes me think of a dentist mixing mercury with
> powdered silver.     (012)

In the manufacturing world, amalgamation is a common means of obtaining 
materials with the desired properties by combining materials that have 
the desired properties severally, or alter the properties of one another 
in the desired ways.  Unfortunately, amalgamation also tends to beget 
undesirable side effects as well.  So I used the word here "with malice 
aforethought". ;-)    (013)

I don't take issue with the gist of John's email: how to do ontology 
development.  But the ISO issue is not (yet) how to do ontology 
development. It is whether we now, in 2009, have sufficient agreement of 
the independently developed foundation ontologies to make one consistent 
one that everyone can use a basis for making useful industrial ontologies.    (014)

That is, at this time, what MCO is about, and that was the topic in the 
subject line.  (Not that the topic in the subject line necessarily 
reflects the nature of the discussion on this exploder after the first 
day, but ...)    (015)

Now, if John can proffer approaches for judging the quality, 
extensibility, utility, etc., of a "fundamental ontology" (as Chris 
Welty tried to do a few years back), THAT would be (IMO) of direct value 
to the study group.    (016)

-Ed    (017)

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    (018)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST,
  and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (019)

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