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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontology Project Organization:

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 11 May 2009 21:03:25 -0400
Message-id: <4A08CADD.9090600@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat,    (01)

That is a hypothesis that many people have asserted, but without
a single shred of evidence:    (02)

PC> No, one single foundation ontology is **absolutely essential**
 > in order to support *accurate* semantic interoperability.  Without
 > a common standard of meaning, ambiguity and misinterpretation are
 > inevitable.    (03)

I agree with the second sentence, but not the first.  There is no
implication relation of the first to the second or vice versa.    (04)

On the contrary, there is overwhelming evidence that people manage
to collaborate very well without anything remotely resembling a
universal upper ontology. Interoperability is *always* task related,
and the standards that support successful interoperability are
always at the domain level, not the upper levels.    (05)

Not only have people been interoperating for millennia without any
common upper ontology, but computer systems have been interoperating
very well since the first networks of the late 1960s and early '70s.    (06)

Furthermore, whenever people start with an upper level, they eventually
discard it, ignore it, or relegate it to a rarely used guideline, not
as something central.  The evidence is overwhelming:    (07)

  1. For Cyc, Lenat started with an upper level, but within the first
     five years or so, he came to realize that the most important work
     is in the microtheories, and the upper levels are of minor value.    (08)

  2. For OntologyWorks, Bill Andersen & Co. started with an upper
     level based on Dolce, but they discarded it in favor of special
     domain-dependent ontologies.  And most of the current contracts
     are coming from companies that need to make independently
     developed databases and knowledge bases *interoperate*.    (09)

  3. At VivoMind, we use a lot of ontologies, but we use the upper
     levels (along the lines of my KR ontology) primarily as a set
     of design guidelines.  All the serious inferences are in the
     low-level contexts or microtheories.  We do use *lexical*
     resources very strongly for relating the vocabulary:  WordNet,
     Roget's Thesaurus, VerbNet, and several other resources.    (010)

This list can be repeated endlessly, but all of the real work
comes from the low-level domains.  The upper levels can be
thrown away or ignored with almost *zero* influence on any
practical problems.    (011)

John    (012)

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