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Re: [ontolog-forum] Fundamental questions about ontology use and reuse

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 24 Jun 2009 23:14:29 -0400
Message-id: <4A42EB95.10109@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat,    (01)

PC> But the problems you describe... are local problems that do not
 > require a common ontology because they do not require semantic
 > interoperability among multiple independently developed programs.    (02)

I was addressing the kinds of problems that exist today, some of
which are nicely solved by companies like OnologyWorks, and others
are nicely solved by the VivoMind software I described.    (03)

PC> The two problems for which a common FO is especially suited are:
 > (1) broad general accurate semantic interoperability, supporting
 > the integration of multiple *independently developed applications*    (04)

If they are truly independent, then they will inevitably have
incompatible ontologies.    (05)

I believe that what you intended to say was "developed by groups
that agreed *in advance* to adopt the same ontology."  That is
totally different from "independently developed".    (06)

Such agreements sometimes happen, and in rare occasions all the parties
to the agreement will develop something that is consistent on at least
the most widely used parts (e.g., so called "standards" for SQL, etc.).    (07)

Given that people have been talking about the goals for a common
ontology for about 20 years, and no de facto standard has emerged
as a candidate, it seems unlikely that there would be any widespread
agreement on any common ontology for a long time to come.    (08)

In fact, even if everybody instantly switched to a common ontology
for all new software, the existing legacy software would continue
to be used for at least another 40 years.  (That's a conservative
assumption, since there are still major applications in daily use
today that are over 40 years old.)    (09)

PC> The federation of legacy databases would be greatly accelerated,
 > and most of the work could be done by local data managers, using the
 > kind of natural language interface that I think should be developed
 > as part of the FO.    (010)

Wait a minute!  For a formal ontology, we are not talking about true
natural languages, but about *controlled natural languages* that can
be read like NLs, but which require computer checking to maintain
consistency with the ontology.    (011)

Interpreting anything that people write without using tools to check
consistency with the FO, will *always* require local approaches, such
as the ones I described in my previous note.    (012)

Fundamental principle:  People don't use formal ontologies to generate
what they say.  They can read controlled NLs that are forced to be
consistent with an FO, but they need strict consistency checkers
to help them stay within the constraints of any formal ontology.    (013)

John    (014)

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