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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontology Project Organization:

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 12 May 2009 08:06:15 -0400
Message-id: <4A096637.5060904@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat, Ron, and Ali,    (01)

PC> Your comments suggest that you are talking about a different
 > kind of interoperability than what is needed for the computer age:    (02)

I am talking about the precise specifications that have been, are
being, and will be used for interoperability among computer systems
from the 1960s to the present and for the foreseeable future.    (03)

JFS>> people [have] been interoperating for millennia without any
 >> common upper ontology...    (04)

PC> Yes, *people* do, but machines don't.    (05)

I'm happy that you recognize the first point, but the second clause
is false.  *All* successful interoperability among computer systems
from the 1960s to the present is based on *syntax* and *semantics*
for just the narrow domains on which interoperability is intended.    (06)

That is *task oriented* interoperability, which works beautifully
for both people and computers.  If you take a taxi in New York,
your chances that your driver is a native New Yorker are almost
zero.  But you can interoperate on that narrow domain.  The same
kind of task-oriented interoperability works for communications
among computers and mixtures of people and computers.    (07)

PC> 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.    (08)

That has been the dream of artificial intelligence for the past
half century.  There have been some limited success stories for
very specialized domains, but nobody has implemented anything
that can do what you are asking for.    (09)

PC> That is possible if and only if the information is specified
 > with the kind of precision that a common foundation ontology
 > can provide.    (010)

That it completely false.  Precision and generality are totally
different goals.  Following is a quotation by C. S. Peirce that
is just as true today as it was a century ago, and it will still
be true a century from now:    (011)

    It is easy to speak with precision upon a general theme.  Only,
    one must commonly surrender all ambition to be certain.  It is
    equally easy to be certain.  One has only to be sufficiently
    vague.  It is not so difficult to be pretty precise and fairly
    certain at once about a very narrow subject.    (012)

In short, if you want the kind of precision necessary for
successful interoperability among people or among computers,
you have to narrow the domain to a precisely specified *task*.    (013)

PC> 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.    (014)

I completely agree.  That has been the dream of AI for the past
half century and probably for the next half century as well.
I encourage you to dream on.  Meanwhile, the rest of us can
work on something that we know how to accomplish.    (015)

RW> My Visa card is good around the world and somehow the various
 > banks are able to make sense of the transaction and transfer
 > the funds correctly and split the fees, in spite of having lots
 > of different accounting systems and banking laws...    (016)

Your examples illustrate what we know how to do very well today.
Good ontologies for those *tasks* can make them more general and
easier to implement, extend, and use.    (017)

AH> If the goal is to identify a single theory which everyone
 > subscribes to -- i think we're chasing a ghost. However, if
 > the end goal is to identify several of the major / influential
 > paradigms and to explicate how they interconnect with one another,
 > and then to identify the translations / mappings between them to
 > enable (partial) interoperability - then i'm all for it.    (018)

I agree.    (019)

AH> 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 [PC] that the
 > solution is a foundation ontology (unless of course you meant
 > one for the abstract properties of relations and functions).    (020)

I believe that something along those lines should be our goal.    (021)

John    (022)

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