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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 09:37:59 -0400
Message-id: <063b01c9d306$dda4a830$98edf890$@com>

Ron Wheeler says:


Ø  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.

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 interoperability is:


>> 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 anything.




Patrick Cassidy



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