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Re: [ontolog-forum] Past, Present, and Future of Ontology

To: "Ontolog-Forum-Bounces" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Sean Barker" <sean.barker@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 31 May 2009 10:06:41 +0100
Message-id: <OOEEJGAPCAJOKOFFPHLHKECBCAAA.sean.barker@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>

I get very uncomfortable when I see discussions of words having "senses"
and "semantic primitives". While the idea of a word "having a meaning"
is a useful metaphor, it is only a metaphor.    (01)

To use a different analogy, I would represent semantics as a continuum,
like a power cable, and that words are the pylons holding up the cable.
The sense of a word is then the section of power line either side of the
word, just as far as the low point of the cable.    (02)

An intended implication of this analogy is that I can put in extra
pylons, which, as words, then take a bit of the sense from the words on
either side - rather like turquoise being somewhere between green and
blue. In fact, I could change the number and position of all the pylons,
to get a different collection of words with the continuum of senses
distributed differently between them.    (03)

One trivial interpretation of this analogy is that different languages
have different collections of words covering the same general concept -
colour terms being an obvious example. Where there is consistency
between human languages, this probably arises because we are the same
species - Wittgenstein's remark (approximately) "If lions could talk, we
would have nothing to say to them" is germane at this point. As societies
elaborate beyong the purely physical forms of life, the choices explode.
This is very evident in the differences in vocabularies between businesses
(and also why it is <b>in principle</b> impossible to fill in a tax form).    (04)

This leads to my view that, while the paradigmatic algorithm for sight
is pattern recognition, that for language is classification (starting with
binary chop). And
therefore choosing the terms of an ontology involves an a priori
categorization of the forms of life that the ontology users need to
distinguish. Interoperability between businesses is tricky, because they
have evolved local forms of life, and therefore each use a vocabulary
with a different set of boundaries between terms to those of any other
business.    (05)

This is why the future of the semantic web will be limited to low risk
interactions such as buying pizza, while high risk interactions, such as
buying aircraft parts, will take place only in closed, trusted
communities, where due diligence on the meaning of terms has taken
place.    (06)

PS The analogy address only one aspect of language. The role of
knowledge and the different levels of awareness (perception,
comprehension, etc) is another, and I suspect that is where discussions
of context should sit.    (07)

Sean Barker    (08)

Bristol, UK    (09)

-----Original Message-----
From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Patrick
Sent: 28 May 2009 17:51
To: '[ontolog-forum] '
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Past, Present, and Future of Ontology    (010)

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John Sowa has done us all a service by presenting a good summary of the
issues that should be dealt with in designing ontologies in general and
foundation ontologies in particular:
    http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/2009-05/msg00133.html    (013)

 . . .  for which I am grateful.    (014)

I would like to point out that the suggestion I have made for a large
collaborative development of a foundation ontology is designed precisely
to avoid the pitfalls that John has enumerated via quotes from previous
discussions.  I find little to argue with in those quotes, with one
exception: the question of semantic primitives.  JS quotes Lenat:    (015)

> In note #62, Doug Lenat and R. V. Guha made the following comments
> about
the search for a set of "primitives":
DL&RVG >> The problems... are (a) there is no small set, and (b) it's  >
almost impossible to nail down the meaning of most interesting terms,  >
because of the inherent ambiguity in whatever set of terms are
<SNIP for volume's sake>    (016)

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