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

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 01 Jun 2009 09:26:36 -0400
Message-id: <4A23D70C.8060803@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Matthew,    (01)

Please note that I never said that my observations constitute a proof
that no upper-level ontology could ever be useful.  I have always said
that it is a worthwhile *research* project.    (02)

I have also said that the largest existing ontologies (Cyc with about
600,000 concept types and the Japanese EDR with about 400,000) have
cost multi-millions of dollars to develop, and they have not be able
to support a sufficient number of applications to recover even a
fraction of that investment.  But other companies have implemented
successful applications based on smaller domain ontologies.    (03)

These observations do not prove that a good upper level is impossible
to discover, but they do suggest three observations:    (04)

  1. It's not easy to discover a good upper ontology and to integrate
     it with a large number of special domain ontologies.    (05)

  2. Even with a large ontology, it's not easy to develop a methodology
     for using it effectively.    (06)

  3. However, the successful applications of smaller ontologies indicate
     that further research on integrating and relating them would be
     useful.    (07)

Therefore, I believe that we should do three kinds of things:    (08)

  1. Continue the research on all levels of the ontologies and on
     methodologies for integrating them, relating them, and using them.    (09)

  2. Use the available smaller ontologies to implement successful and
     profitable applications.    (010)

  3. Plow back some of the profits from #2 to support #1.    (011)

Some comments:    (012)

[MW] If a mapping is not precise, then it has very little value in my
experience.    (013)

I agree.  And that is my primary argument against a large development
project based on primitives.  I'm not against research on primitives,
but all the currently proposed primitives are very poorly defined.    (014)

[MW] However, there will be some upper ontology that is implicit in
what they have done whether they like it or not. So I think I need
to be clear and spell out what I think the essence of an upper ontology
is. I think the following are the key elements of an upper ontology...    (015)

I agree.  But again, discovering the commonalities implicit in many
smaller ontologies is a research project.  My proposal of a lattice
(or at least a partial ordering) of theories would provide a framework
for showing and recording all the implicit relationships.    (016)

[MW] I would welcome either an explanation of how you can avoid using
these relations [listed in the previous note] and making commitments
in these areas...    (017)

I certainly agree that all those relations (and others) are important,
and I would emphasize them, not avoid them.    (018)

Some analysis would be needed to discover all implicit relations, but
the partial ordering would allow any commonalities to be promoted up
the hierarchy whenever they are discovered.    (019)

Furthermore, as new ontologies are designed by combinations of parts
of the older ones, the method of combining them would automatically
show the generalization, specialization, and sibling relations among
the ontologies and parts of ontologies.    (020)

[MW] I suggest that these will necessarily include the elements I
set out above, so they do include an upper ontology - you just don't
want to call it that.    (021)

I certainly do want to call it an upper level.  But I believe that
the upper levels should be *discovered* through analysis, not by
any a priori imposition of somebody's pet theory.    (022)

The advantage of the partial ordering is that it is infinitely
extensible.  It can accommodate any and all current, proposed, or
future theories at any levels -- upper, lower, or middle.    (023)

But it does not force any a priori assumptions about which
theories are better or worse than any others.  The users are
free to choose whichever they find useful, and the patterns
of usage can suggest which directions to emphasize.  The best
de jure standards are the ones that recognize and canonize
the most successful de facto standards.    (024)

[MW] ISO 15926 has definitely paid out many times over. It is
not as large as Cyc, but there is nothing to stop it becoming larger.
The real difference is that it was developed with the solving of
particular problems in mind, but so that it could be extended
to solve other problems.    (025)

That is a good way to develop ontologies.  ISO 15926 would
certainly be put in the hierarchy (lattice or partial ordering).    (026)

[MW in note to Pat C] Frankly until you can show that there are
uses that give significant benefits, you have not actually done
anything  useful (though it may be interesting)...    (027)

That is precisely my objection to Pat's proposal.  As I said,
it's an interesting low-budget research proposal, but not yet
suitable as a high-budget ($30 million) development proposal.    (028)

John    (029)

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