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Re: [ontolog-forum] Guo's word senses and Foundational Ontologies

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Patrick Cassidy" <pat@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 30 May 2009 22:10:12 -0400
Message-id: <008901c9e194$eec72dd0$cc558970$@com>
John, Matthew,
  Thanks for the thoughtful and constructive comments.  I will add some 
comments on a few points they made:    (01)

[MW] > What (I think) Pat is proposing is to produce one ontology into which 
others could be translated/mapped. Those other ontologies need not be changed 
at all, so a 3D and a 4D ontology could each be mapped to the "universal" 
ontology without having to give up their own commitments.    (02)

[PC] Yes, well and succinctly put.  In addition, however, any domain ontology 
newly created using the FO primitives to specify their domain concepts would 
not require any post-hoc mapping effort.  And extensions of mapped ontologies 
would also be born mapped.  After ca. 15 years, that could be a majority of new 
domain ontologies.    (03)

[MW] > So this leaves two problems for Pat:
> 1. Producing a "universal" ontology that is capable of expressing whatever 
>any other ontology does or may express.    (04)

OK.  Creating the ontology that can serve for translation of other ontologies 
is indeed a substantial task, and I think a serviceable version suitable for 
testing, together with some open-source utilities and example applications, can 
be built in 3 years with a consortium of about 100 participants, ca. $30M over 
three years.  Maintenance support at a lower rate for several more years may 
also be required to give it a fair test.    (05)

[MW] > 2. Persuading everyone else to use this "universal" ontology as an 
intermediary to map to all the others.
I don’t expect to persuade *everyone* to use it, and would be quite 
flabbergasted if everyone just stopped investigating other approaches.   It 
just needs to gather a user community of sufficient size so that:
(1) those who *do* want to interoperate accurately will have at least one 
widely used FO capable of supporting and translating their local knowledge 
(2) the number of publicly available applications becomes sufficient to 
encourage an increasing number of developers to use it.
(3) third-party vendors will develop utilities to make it easier to use    (06)

and, if it does grow,
(4) its use is taught in IT departments so that programmers don’t just give 
you a blank stare when you suggest that using an ontology might improve their 
programs or databases    (07)

I am not sure what the trajectory of adoption of ISO15926 has been, but I would 
expect that an FO designed to be more inclusive of alternative preferences in 
ontological representation could gather an even larger user community, 
particularly if a Natural Language interface was developed as part of the 
project.  I hope and expect that ISO15926 will prove mappable to any such FO 
developed, so that anyone using that would have semantic interoperability with 
other FO users.    (08)

[MW] > Neither of which are exactly trivial.
Indeed not.  That’s why I think substantial public funding is needed, and why 
it hasn’t been done yet.    (09)

     Even an expression like A+B creates problems because of all the 
variations of data types in each of the languages.  For a simple add of two 
integers, problems arise because of different ways of handling overflow 
exceptions in the two languages.  An exact translation of A+B to another 
language would have to supplement the code with a library of error handling 
routines that would accommodate all the variations in exception handling that 
are different in the two languages.    (010)

[PC] Good example.   As I mentioned, I think that for a computational ontology, 
among the primitives would be those functions that depend on procedural code 
for their execution (aka interpretation) .  I think that to support accurate 
interoperability, all of those procedure-dependent primitives would have to be 
agreed to, as among the basic components from which more complex concepts can 
be built as FOL structures.  So for an addition function, the procedural code 
adopted for all extensions of the FO would have to include the same provisions 
for precision, overflow, and rounding (and perhaps other subtle issues).  Yes, 
there may be some existing ontologies with embedded primitives inconsistent 
with those adopted for a common FO, so that accurate translation is not 
possible, or too computationally complex.  But I think that even FOL is a lot 
more restricted in syntax and semantics than bit code, so I suspect that 
translating ontologies would be a lot easier than translating computer 
languages with arbitrary procedures.    (011)

[JS]  > 2. Goddard, Wierzbicka, Ogden, LDOCE, and others *never* claim
     their primitives are as precisely defined as a mathematical
     theory or a programming language.  In fact, their examples
     show that their primitives are just as "squishy" -- i.e.,
     just as vague and fuzzy as any words in any of the languages
     they are trying to define.    (012)

True.  But Guo’s work did attempt to get at the issue of ambiguity by 
determining how many senses were actually required to create the composite 
concepts, and his conclusion was fewer than 3 senses per word, on average (3800 
senses for 1400 words).  There may well be some residual “squishiness” even 
in the set of senses Guo thought necessary, so the required ontology primitives 
may be (I am guessing) twice that high, or even (as Lenat suspects) four times. 
 I just think that the issue of semantic interoperability (and machine 
intelligence, generally) has sufficient economic impact to justify more than a 
few efforts in the $30M range to try to answer the question, even if the 
scientific question involved is not as interesting to others as it is to me.    (013)

[JS] If you demand absolute precision, you need a distinct primitive for each 
microsense . . .     (014)

[PC] I don’t think that conclusion follows.  The ‘conceptual primitives’ 
hypothesis suggests that all of those microsenses will be constructable as 
combinations of the primitives.  That has to be tested.    (015)

[JS] . . . , and Lenat's estimate of 15,000 primitives is probably too small.  
(His previous estimates about the number of concepts and axioms needed for Cyc 
have always been too small.)    (016)

Possibly. The story of AI for the past 50+ years is a frequent upward revision 
of the assumed complexity, as new approaches are tried.  But surely we want to 
continue trying, till we succeed – at least as long as some progress is made, 
and plausible new approaches are available.    (017)

>> [PC] > My suggestion was that, rather than guess, we actually conduct
 > a proper study to determine whether there is a finite inventory  > of 
 >conceptual primitives and if so what the number is.    (018)

[JS] > I have no objection to that as a long-term research project.  It might 
produce something useful.  But I wouldn't expect it to solve the translation 
problems for a long, long time.    (019)

[PC] Yes, it is a research project, since there are unknowns and success is not 
guaranteed.  But as with other research projects, if well thought out, the 
attempt will at least reduce the number of unknowns and possibly suggest new 
approaches.  An open public effort has the great advantage over a proprietary 
project such as Cyc because the reasons for any success or failure will be 
visible for inspection by all, and allow anyone to suggest revisions that can 
cure any problems detected.    (020)

Perhaps a widely used FO won’t solve the HL translation problem, but:
(1) it could solve the database interoperability problem;
(2) it could provide a tool to make NLU and other AI research more efficient by 
providing a common de facto standard of meaning, for (a) transmission of 
information among applications or modules of a multi-module aggregate; and (b) 
comparison of results of alternative NLU approaches (a function that is now 
inadequately served by WordNet).
(3)  I think it has at least as good a chance at producing *accurate* 
translations as any other approach.  I am assuming that there is a practical 
demand for translations that are better than one can get with Google’s 
current automated translation utility.    (021)

[JS] > In summary, any foundation for ontology should accommodate continuous 
revision and update.  That is why I have recommended a hierarchy of ontologies, 
not a single, fixed standard.  Let the users decide which, if any, are 
appropriate for their problems.    (022)

I agree, at least for the near future.  If, after much testing, the set of 
semantic primitives in the FO required to represent many fields does appear to 
reach an asymptote, then the FO may become a candidate for a formal standard.   
 But to properly test the semantic primitives hypothesis, past experience 
indicates that we will need to create a user community of substantial size with 
public funding.  Such a community seems to have little chance of arising by 
spontaneous aggregation of interested parties.  The reasons for the latter 
would be the subject of a different thread.    (023)

Pat    (024)

Patrick Cassidy
cell: 908-565-4053
cassidy@xxxxxxxxx    (025)

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