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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: Wed, 03 Jun 2009 08:28:52 -0400
Message-id: <4A266C84.7070802@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Matthew,    (01)

JFS>> The beauty of the lattice is that it can support an open-ended
 > number of different R & D projects at the upper, lower, and middle
 > levels simultaneously.    (02)

MW> Indeed, though as I mentioned elsewhere, the number of upper
 > ontologies that are likely to emerge are quite small, if they
 > are restricted to ontological commitments and core relations
 > and categories. This is just because there are a limited number
 > of such commitments, and not all combinations are coherent.    (03)

Perhaps, but I wouldn't want to prejudge the question by setting
any limits.  Furthermore, many existing ontologies have large
upper levels, and the lattice can accommodate them by accepting
them as undigested lumps.  As time goes by, some people may
decide to modularize the larger lumps, but others might want
to prepackage a complete collection of modules as an industry
standard for some purpose.    (04)

All those options can be represented in the lattice, including
all versions of each.    (05)

MW>>> ... and they are only consistent if they use the same upper
 >>> ontology (ontological commitments, core relations an categories).    (06)

JFS>> That is false.  Two low-level theories that have nothing in
 >> common are *guaranteed* to be consistent.    (07)

MW> That is true but not useful. If there is no point of contact
 > between two ontologies, there is nothing to integrate.    (08)

Actually, it can be very useful.  A lower-level ontology that does
not depend on some upper-level commitments could be compatible with
many different upper levels.  One example is an ontology for units
of measure, which can be neutral about Newtonian mechanics, quantum
mechanics, relativity, 3D, 4D, etc.    (09)

Another example might be a body of laws and legal principles that
has very little to say about physics.  It too could be compatible
with many different upper levels.  When a legal case arises, it
might be necessary to combine multiple lower level modules with
a suitable upper level.  Some of the previously disjoint modules
would become linked when combined with an upper level.    (010)

JFS>> The key point is that you should *never* try to merge two
 >> total ontologies.    (011)

MW> That is false. It depends what you are trying to do. For example,
 > if you are replacing several small systems with a single large
 > system it would be very sensible to integrate the ontologies from
 > the small systems in developing the new system.    (012)

I agree, but we were using different meanings for "total".  I meant
that you would never attempt to integrate a very large ontology like
Cyc with another large ontology that also had a large upper level.    (013)

But the lattice allows those large lumps to be modularized over time.
Many of the lower level modules (microtheories) could be compatible
with multiple upper-level commitments.    (014)

JFS>> Instead, you only need to extract the parts that are necessary
 >> for the task(s) on which interoperability is required.    (015)

MW> I would rather say that is the minimum you should do. In practice
 > I have found this can be significantly sub-optimal when that are
 > multiple such projects to be executed (as there usually are).    (016)

I agree, but there are also other important cases.  For example,
Amazon.com forces the suppliers of books, electronics, and other
products to use their low-level ontology for buying, selling, and
shipping.  That ontology has become a de facto standard for many
suppliers and sellers.  But it has very little commitment to the
upper levels or to the details of the products that are being sold.    (017)

JFS>> There's a better solution:  remove *all* boundaries by
 >> supporting a framework that allows an open-ended variety of
 >> upper levels.    (018)

MW> You're missing the point. Pat is talking about what I would be
 > inclined to call a defining ontology. The idea being that it
 > contains sufficient concepts that all other possible concepts
 > could be defined in terms of them.  That clearly goes beyond
 > what I have been describing as an upper ontology. I think the
 > distinction is useful.    (019)

I agree that metalevel defining ontologies and methodologies can
be extremely useful.  But the lattice should be neutral about
any choice of methodology.  In addition to the lattice, it would
be useful to recognize an open-ended variety of metalevel ontologies
and methodologies for producing modules and working with them.
But the metalevels would be independent of the lattice (although
if enough of them accumulate, someone might later create a new
lattice or sublattice of metalevel theories).    (020)

MW> I meant that the trading systems do not incorporate criminal
 > law (but will include at least bits of contract law). But that is
 > not enough to make something "upper" in my terms, because there are
 > no ontological commitments involved. As I said before, being
 > important is not enough to be upper.    (021)

I agree.    (022)

JFS>> There was a large project in Germany that tried to implement
 >> and reason about an ontology for German law for motor vehicles.
 >> They thought that would be a small, well-defined domain.  But
 >> they discovered that almost every case involved vehicles that
 >> interacted with people, objects, and situations in every
 >> imaginable domain.    (023)

MW> I'm not surprised. But it still does not make it upper in my terms.    (024)

I agree.  It is an example of a branch of the lattice that has very
little contact with other branches *until* some case arises that
requires them to be integrated with each other.    (025)

John    (026)

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