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[ontolog-forum] Reflecting on the occasion of the UoM face-to-face

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "uom-ontology-std" <uom-ontology-std@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Christopher Spottiswoode" <cms@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 29 Oct 2009 21:32:22 +0200
Message-id: <0DCBBC5549384D8B9EEC52E7ADB323BF@Dev>
Hello again, UoMers and Ontologgers in general!    (01)

The activity building up to the UoM ontology face-to-face tomorrow 
(30 October) prompts this pebble-in-the-pond.    (02)

I have been following those fascinating and instructive doings 
with great personal interest (and not surprisingly so, given my 
own present situation, namely, being in mid-flight in my own 
ontology-related development which I have sporadically and 
clumsily been trying to set out on Ontolog since December 2007, as 
further set out below).    (03)

I have been particularly struck by one general feature of your 
present doings, which I perhaps rather unfairly yet usefully 
oversimplify in this way:    (04)

There is no commonly-agreed set of use cases for the UoM ontology. 
The vexed matter of "scope" crops up regularly.  The most 
significant progress towards a definition of scope may have been 
the position staked out by Pat Hayes, and generally accepted (I 
believe...), that for something to be achieved in our lifetimes we 
had better leave out uncertainty and tolerance!    (05)

Resonating with that angst is the most active present thread on 
the ontolog forum itself:  "Just What Is an Ontology, Anyway?".    (06)

Is it not remarkable, after nearly a decade of SUO list and 
Ontolog Forum existence, that such basic questions are still so 
preoccupying?    (07)

Anyway, this situation, whether it really is ridiculous or I 
completely misunderstand it, pushes me to some further jottings on 
the very clear position as to use cases, scope and the nature of 
ontology/ies I have adopted in my own present project, that is, 
the RTM or "Ride The Mainstream!" project to establish MACK, the 
"Mainstream Architecture for Common Knowledge", as the basis for 
the "new web" or next generation of Internet-based media.  The 
project's present home page, http://TheMainstream.info, dated 
January 2009, even opens by calling it "a tightly circumscribed 
project" (with the last 3 words highlighted in bold).    (08)

It is true that that website is very incomplete, even as it 
announces itself.  But that merely reflects my present scheduling 
of my two parallel activities, namely programming the initial 
proof-of-concept "AOS" or "Application Operating System" (to 
replace the web browser and in general act as the universal 
front-end), and trying to describe it all in such a way that one 
or more of you will want to help set up a good, small team to 
expedite that programming.  It is the former or programming track 
which I am trying hardest to advance at the moment.  Anyway, here's 
a new little shove along the other track, namely the team 
advertising one.    (09)

As set out in greater detail on the web elsewhere (Try googling 
Scylla metaset spottiswoode), I started the RTM project in 1963 
with the set of use cases which were brought together in 1966 
under the classic rubric of steering between Scylla and Charybdis. 
That was before I had had any involvement with Information 
Systems.  In present terms, Scylla the many-headed monster of 
oversimplification is exemplified by failed doctrines, dogmas, 
paradigms, ideologies, theories and, of course, by any conceptual 
schemas when glorified with the pretentious and misleading name 
"ontology" (lower-case "o", and cf. George Box's "all models are 
wrong but some are useful", as Andreas Tolk's recent Ontolog post 
reminded us).  So the use case here is that we should always 
follow Homer's Circe's advice to Odysseus:  "Hug Scylla's rock!" 
We have to simplify the complexity of unstructured reality, even 
at the expense of the inevitable losses to Scylla the man-eating 
monster, who is destined always to devour some of the best of the 
crew of every passing ship.  Concretely that lands us in the most 
general market, where products represent simplifications and 
eventual oversimplifications of needs, with facilitating and 
stimulating market processes, all round the recurring marketing 
cycle from needs awareness to product deployment, being the 
relevant set of use cases.    (010)

So, the first contrast between the RTM and the UoM projects is 
that the latter is always talking about "an" ontology.  MACK on 
the other hand, as we'll see more of it below, and as realized by 
an AOS, deals with ever-changing combinations of compatible 
 "Forms" ("conceptual Forms"), leveraging the conceptual 
components that our intellectual history has distilled out as more 
or less mutually orthogonal and therefore composable.  They 
encapsulate our discoveries of invariances abstracted from the 
flux of ever-changing reality.    (011)

Here some of the most relevant details of MACK are in the 2nd, 3rd 
and 4th instalments of my "MACK basics" series on Ontolog, as 
http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/2008-04/msg00109.html#nid010 .    (012)

Set across the strait from Scylla, Charybdis the whirlpool of 
complexity is the Homeric package of the next set of use cases. 
Its most interesting feature is the great figtree growing over 
complex reality and tending to hide its unstructured and often 
destructive nature, Homer's "dark sands of the sea bottom" which 
one can only glimpse from afar.  The figtree's branches, onto one 
of which Odysseus clung for a while to save himself from 
annihilation by the vortex, represent the mainstreams of 
established cultures and institutions.  The prime function of "The 
Mainstream", then, is to enable us to meet the recurrent 
challenges of escaping the immobility of such social predicaments. 
That, Odysseus achieved when Charybdis regurgitated his raft 
consisting of the mast and keel of his wrecked ship, "though they 
came up very late, not till such time as a judge with long list of 
disputes to settle between obstinate litigants rises from court 
for his evening meal."  (And what an enormously significant 
metaphor Homer chose to employ in that scene of elemental physical 
catastrophe!)    (013)

Thus the Homeric keel is the structured nature of our conceptual 
knowledge, in logical space.  And the Homeric mast is that which 
holds the sails which catch the winds of progress:  human 
creativity and its products operating in time dimensions, 
mediating process.  That represents the second contrast between 
the RTM and UoM or other conventional notions of ontology:  in a 
MACK-architected digital environment _all_ processing takes place 
within structured and Form-delineated contexts.  Thus "Forms" (ex-"ontologies", 
renovated) and their local instances, under the impact of outside 
events, fully circumscribe the states, recognizable events and 
resulting state-transitions of IS applications.    (014)

I have a new metaphor which portrays that dynamic process.  It 
further builds on the Koestler view of creativity as "bisociation" 
from one reference-frame to another.  (I had introduced that view 
on slide 24 of the slideshow I had prepared for my once-scheduled 
contribution to the Standards and Ontologies Summit last April and 
which, with its many added notes, is now at 
http://TheMainstream.info/RTM.html.)    (015)

Thus the streams of state-transitions as managed by a 
MACK-conformant AOS can be compared with the metabolic pathways in 
the living cell (see e.g. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metabolic_pathway), which consist of 
specific steps or state-transitions from one coherent and 
relatively stable state to a new one.  (Integrating 
gene-expression and other DNA-related pathways in the nucleus most 
evocatively enriches the metaphor by involving the meme concept!)    (016)

(Here we do well to consider how metaphors are great unifiers of 
the otherwise-disparate facts and features with which a new domain 
easily overwhelms us, even though they can blind or mislead.  But 
of course our Homeric metaphor is there to remind us in turn of 
such phenomena too, and help us resist their depredations!)    (017)

But how does that whole picture relate to our present Units of 
Measure exercise?    (018)

Well, MACK handles them fully canonically!  And modularly too, of 
course, in the MACK-canonical way that has very little to do with 
namespaces, that historically-created diversion from the real 
modularity that the omnipresent processes of abstraction towards 
orthogonality as properly understood make available to us.  It's 
really very simple:  there is nothing that has been discussed on 
the uom-ontology-std forum - not even uncertainty and tolerance! - 
that does not fit in easily, reusably, controllably, and 
interoperablely.  Quite frankly, I have been amazed at the 
confusion and fuss.  Well, what's the solution then?  My 
suggestion is brief enough:  go back and piece together the story 
as set out here and on the relevant pages linked-to above.    (019)

However, I am afraid that there I have set you a well-nigh 
impossible task.  I really should do better with my whole 
exposition.  But until the first AOS makes it plain to any kind of 
user (which will be thanks also to the foreseeable effects of the 
thereby-created marketplace...) it is very difficult to portray 
the outcome of a process which diverged from conventional 
professional pathways nearly half a century ago.  But my past 
career as applications programmer, system programmer, database 
designer, and application development tool seller and trainer 
makes it plain enough to me that correct, efficient, trustable and 
flexible programmability is not the problem.  The problem, I 
believe, is that I need the input from - and particularly the 
stimulus of - some small team to help bring the existing pieces 
together.  Do you perhaps have a role to play there?  Or do you 
know someone who might?    (020)

Sorry, but that's the best I can do on this front right now, and, 
hopefully, thanks in anticipation of your role, sooner or later!    (021)

Christopher    (022)

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