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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontology Project Organization:

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Patrick Cassidy" <pat@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 12 May 2009 00:51:53 -0400
Message-id: <05bb01c9d2bd$5eb39890$1c1ac9b0$@com>
   Your comments suggest that you are talking about a different kind of
interoperability than what is needed for the computer age:    (01)

> On the contrary, there is overwhelming evidence that people manage to 
> collaborate very well without anything remotely resembling a universal 
> upper ontology.
> . . .
> people been interoperating for millennia without any common upper 
> ontology    (02)

Yes, *people* do,  but machines don't. The sort of accurate *semantic*
interoperability that requires a common foundation ontology (or something
like it) is the ability for a *machine* to take information placed in a
public repository and properly interpret it and make important decisions
based on it.  That is possible if and only if the information is specified
with the kind of precision that a common foundation ontology can provide.
If you think there is an alternative mechanism, you should provide examples
that can be *publicly* inspected and evaluated of cases where that kind of
semantic interoperability was achieved without a common ontology.  Thus far
I have only seen mapping efforts which are highly error-prone and unsuitable
for automated decision, usable only to present a list of possibilities to
some human who is doing the real semantic interpretation.  Examples with
details, please - not anecdotes.    (03)

Of course, when one person or group wants to make multiple systems
interoperate locally they can use simple domain ontologies or no ontology at
all.  I emphasize again that we must clearly distinguish the problem of
general, accurate *automatic* (without a human in the loop) semantic
interoperability from all other interaction situations.  The requirements
and solutions will be different for different problems.    (04)

If we are not clear about the problem we are trying to solve of course we
will disagree about the answer.  What people have done for millennia is to
misunderstand each other and talk past (as you and I seem to be doing) each
other because of different assumptions and goals.  Part of that is
inevitable because no person can know with certainty exactly what is known
by another person.  Machines have the capability to be much more precise
because they *can* know exactly what knowledge other machines have, in
logical detail.  I am suggesting we take advantage of that *machine*
capability by giving them the tool of a common standard of meaning with
which to share information accurately.    (05)

[JS] > This list can be repeated endlessly, but all of the real work
> comes from the low-level domains.    (06)

Correction: all the detailed machine interpretation *up to now* has come
from domain-level interoperability based on direct collaboration among the
*humans* whose machines are communicating - understandably because there has
not been *up to now* any widely accepted foundation ontology.  But we can
expand interoperability beyond that narrow scenario, and I suggest we look
to what *can* be done with the proper tools, and not confine ourselves to
what has been done in the past.     (07)

[JS] > 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.      (08)

It is possible to ignore the foundation ontology only when all the
components that need to interoperate semantically are under the control of
*one* human or small collaborating group who provides the semantic
interpretations.  All of your examples fit into this category.  The problem
of general semantic interoperability is much broader than that scenario.    (09)

Repeating again: the problem is how to achieve accurate semantic
interpretation of data when the data that is being interpreted cannot be
interpreted by some human intermediary(s) who can  forge a common
understanding among separate data sources.  When information is placed in a
public location to be used by others, no direct interaction between creator
and user of the data is possible and the information must be in a form that
can itself be accurately interpreted.  If machines are to do the
interpretation, a standard of meaning at least as complex, expressive, and
complete as a human language must be shared.  That is the role of the common
foundation ontology, to be used when there are no humans in the loop to
correct mistakes.    (010)

Pat    (011)

Patrick Cassidy
cell: 908-565-4053
cassidy@xxxxxxxxx    (012)

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