Ron Wheeler says:
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.
Of course. That and the other
applications you mention are examples of where semantics of information in a *narrow*
domain have been carefully specified and are agreed to by those who develop
systems to use that information. That tactic preceded the computer era with
forms that people fill out, with the semantics of the fields well-defined. I
don’t doubt that such applications will continue to be developed. But
your credit card won’t do any of the millions of other tasks people want
to do with information beyond serving as ID and a method of payment.
No one I know doubts the usefulness
of building applications in restricted domains for which information semantics
is well-defined and agreed to by all users. But those narrow domains in which information
is well-defined cannot share information with each other without painstaking
new one-by-one agreements on how the information in one domain relates to the
information in the other domain. What the common foundation ontology provides
is a means to allow all specialized domains to define their information semantics
in a way that allow them to automatically interoperate with no new agreements
on semantics painfully hammered out when information transfer is desired.
Once again, please keep in mind
the difference between broad general semantic interoperability and
interoperability in narrow domains. We have many examples of the latter, and
as yet no examples of the former, because we have many examples of agreement on
semantics in narrow domains and not yet a broad agreement on the semantics of
multiple domains. I repeat the point of what broad accurate automatic semantic
>> 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.
As I have said before broad
semantic interoperability means that one agent can place information in a
public repository, and that information can be accurately and automatically interpreted
by a computer, **even when the computer has no idea who put the information
there or for what reason it was created**. All of the narrow domain
scenarios of information transfer that are familiar require that there be a
very restricted set of information types in an agreed format. Broad semantic
interoperability allows information of *any* type to be placed in a
public repository and correctly understood. The interpretation is supported by
use of the common FO.
The point of the suggested FO
project is that it is perfectly feasible to have such broad semantic
interoperability, provided that an appropriate project is funded to develop an
FO acceptable to a user community of adequate size to create public demo
applications that show how it can be used to good effect.
Yes, narrow semantic
interoperability is perfectly feasible without an ontology, and even without a computer.
Broad automatic semantic interoperability is a very different thing, and if we
can’t keep the difference in mind, then no amount of talking will accomplish