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[ontolog-forum] Danger of URIs in mission-critical applications

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 09 Jul 2009 10:30:29 -0400
Message-id: <4A55FF05.3080302@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Redirecting this thread from ontology-summit to ontolog forum.
______________________________________________________________    (01)

Martin and David,    (02)

All modern technology is based on universal identifiers such
as 'gram' and 'volt', which are unique within the domain of
measurement.  For such purposes, the methods of resolving the
identifiers are far more secure than any method based on URIs.
A URI for the term 'gram', for example, would be a single point
of failure that could be attacked by any novice-level hacker.    (03)

I agree with both of those points:    (04)

MH> Using [old fashioned paper methods] provide more legal/
 > administrative control that can be used to maintain the meaning
 > associated with the symbol. In particular, there is a lot of
 > "old economy" legal power to enforce compliance etc.
 > URIs, in contrast, have the advantage that they drastically reduce
 > the cost for the community to look up the intended meaning of the
 > symbol (i.e. the URI), which reduces the familiarization costs and
 > may support convergence in the usage of the symbol in communication.    (05)

That "old economy" had a lot of faults, but just note the recent
economic disaster caused by people who used computers to avoid the
controls of the "old economy".    (06)

MH> So, IMO, URIs are the best technique that mankind has had so far
 > for establishing and maintaining / renewing consensus about the
 > meaning of those identifiers.    (07)

If you replace "best" with "an interesting new", I'll accept that
statement.  But so far, the people who are reaching that consensus
have been innocent academics or worse the experienced kind of
people who rejected the controls of the "old economy".    (08)

DL> In the future ISO may assign identifiers to things rather than
 > documents.  These identifiers may be URIs, and ISO may provide
 > a Web service so that dereferencing a URI for a thing redirects
 > to a document that defines the thing.    (09)

Yes, I'm aware of that danger.  But for any kind of mission-critical
application, it's essential to guarantee that those dereferencing
methods are secure.  Since secure methods are likely to have a
higher level of overhead, it's important to dereference a single
secure URI for an entire ontology, which includes the unique names
such such as 'gram', 'kilogram', etc.    (010)

Granularity down to the level of individual names is too dangerous
and inefficient for each and every identifier used in an ontology.    (011)

Note the following article (one of many):    (012)

    SEOUL, South Korea  A wave of cyberattacks aimed at 27 American
    and South Korean government agencies and commercial Web sites
    temporarily jammed more than a third of them over the past five
    days, and several sites in South Korea came under renewed attack
    on Thursday.    (013)

   http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/technology/09cyber.html?ref=technology    (014)

If the current methods for using URIs ever became widely adopted in
mission-critical applications, Kim Jong-il would be able to accomplish
his grandest dream:    (015)

    Reduce the entire world economy to the level of North Korea.    (016)

For critical identifiers, such as the terms of an ontology, it is
essential to perform a single dereferencing operation for an entire
lexicon.  Within the ontology we can continue to use humanly readable
identifiers, such as 'gram', 'volt', 'ampere', etc.  Those terms are
secure because there is no single point of failure, such as a URI.    (017)

John Sowa    (018)

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