"All the ontologies we have been considering focus on complex things and
events that people see and talk about. They deliberately ignore issues in
the foundations of physics and the universe, either from a digital or an
analog point of view."
S. Weinberg: "In the study of anything outside human affairs, including the
study of complexity, it is only simplicity that can be interesting." (01)
To formulate a general theory of complexity comes up as a priority task for
What Weinberg means, unraveling the simple, fundamental mechanisms of
complex systems and processes. As a big mind, he is after the simplicity
(order) in the real complexity (chaos). (02)
A kind of ontology we need is the one which affords us the fundamental
patterns of relationships as underlying all sorts of real complexities,
nonlinear phenomena, complex dynamic systems, like the simple recurrence
relations, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recurrence_relation, describing
chaotic behaviors and recursive processes, including cellular automata. (03)
----- Original Message -----
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Sunday, April 26, 2009 7:16 PM
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Digital Ontology and digital ontology (05)
> Paola, Azamat, Christopher, and Mike,
> PDM> But some passages in the lecture seem to create the impression
> > that physical world results from a certain kind of computation...
> I agree. And that's a metaphor that is helpful to a certain extent,
> but it also has some connotations that may be more distracting than
> Peirce's semiotics is even more general than computation, since
> every kind of computation processes signs. But the idea of signs
> also has connotations that can be distracting. For such reasons,
> I think it's important to use multiple ways (or paradigms) for
> describing the same phenomena in order to emphasize what is
> common beneath all the terminology and metaphors.
> AA> But there are noted physicists, who could see the things i
> mentioned... S. Weinberg [24 October 2002, "Is the Universe
> a Computer?" The New York Review of Books].
> Thanks for the reference. I found the full article on the web:
> I agree that the claim that the universe can be adequately modeled
> as a cellular automaton is dubious, but I'd like to quote another
> point from Weinberg's review:
> SW> The central theme of the book is easily stated. It is that many
> > simple rules can lead to complex behavior. The example that is
> > used repeatedly to illustrate this theme is a favorite toy of
> > complexity theorists known as the cellular automaton...
> I believe that central theme is important. But I'd also like to
> add that the traditional continuous mathematics used in physics
> also leads to enormous complexity. Newton's simple equation F=ma
> leads to and explains very complex kinds of systems. The carbon
> atom combined with a dozen or so other kinds of atoms leads to
> the enormous complexity of organic molecules, DNA, and life.
> I think that Weinberg makes many important observations, but I
> strongly disagree with his concluding sentence:
> SW> In the study of anything outside human affairs, including the
> > study of complexity, it is only simplicity that can be interesting.
> The only things that people can observe and act upon are extremely
> complex systems. It took thousands of years of civilization to
> discover those simple equations of theoretical physics (or those
> simple cellular automata). But people still see, feel, and think
> about those complex things and events.
> AA> The prolix volume mentioned was just a good instigation to view
> > the similarities and differences of two types of ontology.
> It's important to recognize those differences, but the issues
> discussed by Wolfram and Weinberg are very far from the central
> focus of the ontologies discussed in this forum.
> All the ontologies we have been considering focus on complex things
> and events that people see and talk about. They deliberately ignore
> issues in the foundations of physics and the universe, either from
> a digital or an analog point of view.
> CS> I think [Wolfram] does in fact claim that the real world has
> > a certain underlying simplicity.
> I agree, but he also talks about the complexity that arises from
> that simplicity. For the kinds of ontologies we have been discussing,
> the central focus is complex things and events. Any simulations or
> foundations in either quantum mechanics or cellular automata are
> very far removed from the focus of those ontologies.
> CS> But his work is about how apparently real-enough complexity
> > can be produced by simple automata. And on NKS p469 he does say
> > this:
> > "But it does mean that if one once discovers a rule that
> > reproduces sufficiently many features of the universe, then
> > it becomes extremely likely that this rule is indeed the final
> > and correct one for the whole universe."
> I agree that any such rule would be very interesting. But it would
> have almost no effect on the ontologies such as Cyc, SUMO, BFO,
> Dolce, or any of the others we have been discussing.
> MB> I thought that the idea that the complexity of the real world
> > can arise from very simple patterns had been well explored by
> > Holland and others in the "complexity" world. Surely that's no
> > longer a contentious point...
> I agree. But the kind of simplicity that Wolfram and Weinberg
> are searching will have little or no effect on the ontologies
> discussed in this forum. Even if they discovered the magic rule
> that governs the entire universe, the application of that rule
> would involve an immense amount of computation before it could
> explain anything that we see every day.
> But there are some very important lessons we can learn from those
> 1. No ontology that has been proposed in this forum adequately
> addresses the fundamental principles (whether digital or
> analog) that govern the universe.
> 2. The central focus of our common ontologies has been the kinds
> of things and events we experience every day. Those things
> are immensely more complex than the simple foundations of
> theoretical physics (whatever they may be).
> 3. The categories in our ontologies are at best useful descriptions
> and approximations of commonsense phenomena. They are not and
> cannot be considered the ultimate foundations of everything.
> 4. No currently available ontology has proved to be adequate for
> describing everything that people talk about and write programs
> to process, but they have been useful for many purposes.
> 5. Therefore, our standards for ontology should support and relate
> an open-ended variety of specialized ontologies for different
> purposes. No single one of them can or should be considered
> the foundation for everything that we talk about or need to
> process on our computer systems.
> John Sowa
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