The problem is not just that Cyc is proprietary, though that in itself
makes it unusable as a common Foundation Ontology. Even if free, it would
still need to be used to develop practical applications that are
open-source, and those need to be linked by translation mechanisms that can
convert local preferred representations to the canonical intermediary form.
Because of all the existing foundation ontologies, developing a merged
ontology will be relatively inexpensive. Building interesting applications
and linking them, and finding ways to express domain knowledge of interest
to multiple diverse groups will be the most expensive part of such a
I would be delighted if the whole of Cyc could be put into the public
domain by purchase, and would be quite happy to use it all as a base for
application development. But that possibility does not relieve everyone of
the need to consider all the other work that would have to be done to make
an FO widely acceptable. For one thing, I am convinced that it would need a
good natural language interface - less accessible interfaces are difficult
to distinguish from traditional programming and database functionality. Cyc
has done a lot of work on natural language, but the demos I have seen were
not impressive, and no demo is available on the web for us to test out.
That lack of public openness is fatal to public acceptance. One important
task of the FO project I envision is to develop an on-line NL interface from
the earliest point to allow anyone to interrogate the ontology in basic
English to find out what is in there. That is non-trivial and will not be
solved even by making all of Cyc public. (02)
> -----Original Message-----
> From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-
> bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of John F. Sowa
> Sent: Monday, April 13, 2009 11:10 PM
> To: [ontolog-forum]
> Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] ISO merged ontology effort "MCO"
> Dream on!
> RW> $30,000,000 for 100 people is $300,000 per person,
> > so the project runs for a few years.
> The major complaint about Cyc is that the full Cyc with all the
> axioms is proprietary. But I'm sure that for much, much less
> than $30 million, Lenat & Co. would be delighted to transfer
> the full Cyc ontology + axioms + tools into free open source.
> As a result, you would get a very large ontology to work with
> very quickly plus a lot of useful tools.
> (That would not mean that Cycorp would go out of business,
> because their consulting business would skyrocket, and that
> sudden influx of cash would enable them to hire more people
> to develop new stuff, which they could charge money for.)
> I'm sure that people who criticize Cyc might think that they
> could develop something better than Cyc. Perhaps. But there's
> no guarantee that it would be better, it might be worse, and it
> would certainly take a lot more time.
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