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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontology Project Organization:

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ali Hashemi <ali.hashemi+ontolog@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 12 May 2009 12:31:38 +0200
Message-id: <5ab1dc970905120331l39bc991va9d4f88326c490b@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Pat,

I am slightly confused. Perhaps you can elucidate for me what exactly this foundation ontology would assert?

Are we talking here of say, properties of unary, binary, ternary etc. relations devoid of any particular conceptualization? If so, then yes, we may reach some sort of common foundation.

Yet, if you are asserting that a physicist, biologist, anthropologist, lawyer and psychologist would somehow agree on the same fundamental ontology, I have difficulty seeing such a proposal coming to practicable fruition.

Note in my response, I don't disagree that there need be an overriding framework to make sense of the sundry ontologies now available. However, I suppose I disagree with you in that the solution is a foundation ontology (unless of course you meant one for the abstract properties of relations and functions).

I appreciate your description of the current state of affairs, but before I write more, I would be very grateful if you would provide an example(s) of something(s) the foundation ontology would include.


On Mon, May 11, 2009 at 7:52 PM, Patrick Cassidy <pat@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:


  Re: > Just want to reiterate one basic point -- the idea of a single foundation ontology is fundamentally, and fatally flawed. I think you've agreed with this suggestion in the past as well, but I see the term being used here in the singular.

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.   There is plenty of room for multiple ontologies of particular domains, including basic things like time.   But without a single common foundation ontology that can serve to *translate* among the other ontologies, there is no hope for accurate interchange of information.   There is no flaw here, a common foundation ontology is the whole point, to allow independent development of multiple domain ontologies that can interoperate.


The current situation indeed demonstrates that people will generate their own local and different ontologies, **but** that is occurring precisely because there is no widely accepted common FO.  If there were one, and if it were usable by the public, and if anyone wanted to interoperate with other systems, it would be madness to go off and develop an incompatible ontology, because it would be totally unnecessary, costly, and prone to repeat errors that were made and corrected in the past.  The point of the common FO is to contain all of the basic elements that anyone would need to represent what they want to represent, in the way they want to represent it.  All they need to do is define their domain elements by use of the common FO.


It is important that we not confuse what happens in the absence of any widely accepted common FO from what would happen if there were one.  The point of the FO development project is to create an active user community so that there will be **at least one** common FO that people can use.  Then, if anyone wants to interoperate with others, there would be a very powerful incentive to use  the most widely used existing system. 


Yes, people develop their own ontologies (and I do too!) because they have no reason to want to interoperate with any existing system.  There are too few users, and no public applications. When, inevitably, some large community does arise that uses a common FO, the whole situation will change totally.  With other real applications that one can interoperate with, and an FO capable of representing anything you want to represent, who in their right mind would go off and develop a different ontology anyway?  Only those who do not care about interoperability, which is almost everyone who has developed their own ontology thus far.  If there were already a widely used FO, with public applications and an NL interface, I would use that instead of investigating alternatives.  But there aren’t any.


Please do *not* *not* *not* confuse the requirements for developing a useful local application with the requirements for semantic interoperability.  They are totally different.  So far, there is no broad user community for any FO, and the inevitable result is that people develop their local ontologies that are congenial to them, having little incentive to use anyone else’s and powerful disincentive (they are hard to learn and to use).


The point of an FO project is to *create* a large user community so that people who want to interoperate with others will have a community that they can participate in.   If local incompatible ontologies are adequate, use them.  If you want broad semantic interoperability , you must find a large community that uses a common FO.


Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that the potential user community is massively larger than the tiny band of people who develop their own ontologies with alternative representations that differ from each other.  Most users will be database-driven  application developers who don’t care a hoot about ontology, but would be thankful for a convenient way to develop their local data models in a way that permits accurate semantic interoperability with other DB developers.   When an FO is widely used to support interoperability among applications, the earlier history of ontologists going off and developing separate systems, any one of which would do the same job, but which are difficult and impractical to translate post-hoc, will be looked on as a quaint distant episode from the past.




Patrick Cassidy



cell: 908-565-4053


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