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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontology Project Organization:

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ali Hashemi <ali.hashemi@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 12 May 2009 16:59:26 +0200
Message-id: <5ab1dc970905120759v4a338dcax8972f2c944ebe24a@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

So I stand by my initial assertion. First, note that the second you start going to microtheories, we are no longer talking about a single foundation ontology, but a collection of ontologies.

Secondly, I would further conjecture that the intersection of agreement among such a diverse group of people would be so weak as to be of limited use. As you yourself note, the FO would bifurcate as extensions to the more specific needs of users. Here's the crux - the interoperability we seek isn't gained so much by connecting our ontologies to these (necessarily) weak upper concepts, but in establishing the links between the extensions people actually use.

Which brings us back to more or less where we are today. Take the 3D-4D example - they are inconsistent in a single ontology -- unifying them into one ontology isn't a realistic goal. They are two competing paradigms -- one can certainly engineer an interoperation between the two, but it certainly isn't by pointing to a FO. Indeed, figuring out how to translate from one into another doesn't require a foundation ontology, only appropriate interpretations / translations / partial semantic mappings between the two paradigms.

I really don't see how searching for a unique foundation ontology helps at all, since in the end we will still need to generate these mappings for the extensions.


Slight digression:

As for properties of arbitrary relations - mathematics has done a good job of identifying the logical properties of binary, ternary etc. relations. Moreover, groups such as LOA in Trento are working on explicating the different types of ontological commitments relations might make (i.e. Rigidity etc).  Others (Gangemi et al in Rome, myself and others at STL in Toronto) have worked on identifying the logical / model structure patterns that recur. None of these approaches require agreement on primitive terms in disparate domains. They more directly and immediately work to generate different types of mappings (logical, ontological) between various theories.

I agree that mapping primitives in different domains to basic logical patterns or basic types of ontological commitments is useful for interoperability. But that is a far cry from a unique FO.


On Tue, May 12, 2009 at 4:33 PM, Patrick Cassidy <pat@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Ali Hashemi wrote:

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


  Examples of what a foundation ontology would include can be found in any of the existing FO’s such as Cyc, DOLCE, SUMO, or (my favorite) COSMO [http://micra.com/COSMO].  But none of those will serve the purpose of the common FO that could be developed by a broad consortium of developers and users, because each  of those has a structure that makes representation choices different from the others, with no provision for translation into other views.  The common FO would have enough of the most primitive conceptual elements to allow views represented in one ontology to be translated into the form of any different ontology, by means of bridging axioms, or if necessary procedural code.  In addition, to be widely acceptable, the  common FO would need utilities to make it easier to use than existing FO’s, and in particular a good natural language interface.


The most important function of the FO is to provide all of the basic elements to allow anyone to create a domain application ontology in which all of the domain ontology elements are created as combinations of the pre-existing elements in the FO.  This will allow automatic interpretation of any domain concept developed from the preexisting ontology elements, whose semantic are well specified and agreed on by all users.  That automatic interpretation is what I call ‘semantic interoperability’.    I call the FO the ‘conceptual defining vocabulary’ because it provides a means to specify the logical structure of any domain element (‘defining’ the domain elements, in a loose dictionary sense).


The apparently  difficult conceptual barrier to overcome in visualizing this process is to accept that there can be agreement on such a basic vocabulary.  The way to overcome this barrier is to realize that **anything** that **anyone** thinks is necessary to specify the logical structure of their domain ontology elements can be included in that FO.  What may be even more surprising is that very few of the elements needed for such a basic vocabulary are actually logically incompatible with each other – they merely represent different ways of viewing the same entities.  This is a conclusion I have reached after 15 years of paying attention to debates on that issue.  An example of the problem is the issue of whether 3D and 4D perspectives can be translated into each other.  Both Pat Hayes and I have presented examples of bridging axioms that can translate assertions formulated in either view into assertions formulated in the other view.  Other cases of supposed logical incompatibility can also be resolved by bridging axioms.  The elements of the FO itself will be logically consistent.  In cases where some domains need to represent logically inconsistent concepts, they will be represented in extensions to the FO.  But in each case, the elements of those extensions can be logically specified using only the elements of the FO.  What this means is that not only *we* can recognize that these theories are incompatible, but the *machine* can also recognize that the theories are incompatible, **while still understanding what the theories are asserting**!!  What happens with incompatible theories is that they are not all asserted as true elements of a single ontology, but as separate theories, whose axioms are not asserted as part of the FO itself.  The segregation of theories form each other is a common tactic – in Cyc it is accomplished by microtheories, and by contexts in other ontologies.


[AH]  > 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.

Yes, I am asserting that, and I believe I have very good reason.  As an example, let us say that we know that there are incompatible theories of space and time – Newtonian and Einsteinian.  Their *models* are logically incompatible.  Each of these is therefore represented as a different *theory* of space and time.  But both of those theories can be adequately represented using the same basic inventory of primitive ontology elements that are themselves logically compatible and all maintained in the FO.  So, not only do *we* know that there are two ways to calculate the trajectory of an object through space, but the *computer* can also know that. And the computer can also know that each of these models yields an *approximation* to the actual behavior of objects in space, and that the Einsteinian approximation is more accurate but harder to calculate than the Newtonian approximation, and that the Newtonian approximation is good enough for use in specific circumstances and that Einstein may be needed in other circumstances.  Representing all of that basic knowledge of how to deal with different circumstances is the task of the FO.  It will be complex, and it will need a large community to demonstrate that it is feasible, by creating applications that use it to good effect.


Of course building applications to demonstrate the utility of an FO is not simple.  If it were it would have been done long ago.  That’s why it needs a scientific community of substantial size to develop and test and evolve the FO and its essential utilities, in particular the NL interface; and then to create publicly available applications that demonstrate its use.


Meanwhile there are plenty of more modest applications that do not require an FO at all, and do not need to interoperate with other applications, so people will develop their local ontologies and hopefully use them to good effect.  If they want to interoperate with more than a few other ontologies, however, an FO is the most effective way to do so.


There is powerful potential in a community that adopts a common FO, and I am suggesting that that potential be properly explored.




Patrick Cassidy



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