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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontologiesassocialmediators(was:Ontologydevelopment

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 03 Dec 2009 15:07:53 -0500
Message-id: <4B181A99.8090300@xxxxxxxx>

> In order to be able to agree on any piece of knowledge we must establish the 
>identity of the subject of discourse and align our own concepts against each 
>       (01)

Yes.  But we cannot expect such alignment to be perfect in any sense.    (02)

> Such an alignment is not possible by using object, properties and relations 
>and events as identifiers. Even if we agree that a concept is an objectand an 
>object is a totality of propeerties and a list of real life items 
>displaying/materialising those properties (usually also used as examples). 
>These lists must be open as they grow with the advance of learning.
>       (03)

And yet, this is exactly how people have always succeeded in 
communicating concepts, and assigning shared terminology.  A concept is 
defined by reference to its properties or by reference to its 
instances.  In many cases, the reference to instances is exemplary, and 
intended to be inductive.  Precisely because these lists (properties and 
instances) are open and grow with experience, the process is clumsy and 
does not always produce "perfect" alignment of the concepts.     (04)

But like human communication, no claim is made that ontologies produce 
perfect alignment of the intent, either.  What is critical is that it 
produces practical alignment -- the term serves the purpose of the 
interpersonal communication; the ontology is reliable with respect to 
the properties cited.    (05)

> Because  the process of increasing our knowledge is not recorded, the path is 
>important for the individual and the community.     (06)

This is true.  That is, the concept that any person has, or any 
community shares, is formed by experience, and will reflect that 
experience to some extent.  And the varying ability of humans to 
abstract and analogize means that different individuals may acquire 
different concepts from the same experience.    (07)

["Some people can learn from the mistakes of others; some can learn only 
from their own mistakes; and some don't seem to learn from either."  -- 
Mark Twain]    (08)

> resolution rather than controversion is required.     (09)

That is simply not true.  Both are required.  We learn from comparison 
and discrimination, but also from counterexamples and false analogies.  
"All that glitters is not gold."     (010)

> But from the very beginning of schooling we pass on knowledge in school 
>subject frames without harmonizing definitions or cross-referencing.     (011)

Yes, but no one's education stops there.  At some time, commonly 
supposed to be around age 12, children become capable of critical 
thinking.  And thereafter, in some curricula, we try to teach them the 
skills of argument, comparision, unification, etc., in the hope that 
this will lead them to harmonization and cross-reference.  But those are 
skills and they depend in part on individual talent.  Just as no amount 
of coaching can make an average striker "bend it like Beckham", no 
amount of teaching can create an Einstein.    (012)

> Today you have concordance programs and it would be a simple job to find out 
>any inconsistencies in usage, adpect or approach.
>       (013)

I hope no one believes this.  The equivalence of the concepts in the 
heads of two authors is unknowable.  Some level of practical equivalence 
may be gleaned from their writing.     (014)

This is also where the problem of the culture of speech communities 
enters in.  A frequent phenomenon in government and large corporations 
is management writing that is intended for upper management and is 
confusing or contradictory for the people actually doing the work.  The 
communities use the same catch phrases for the same subject matter, but 
they are used at different levels of abstraction and with different 
intent.  A concordance, however, would likely identify them as having 
the same meaning, because the environmental terminology matches, by 
(intentionally) having the same kind of differences in interpretation.  
Think of "Service-oriented architecture".    (015)

> Therefore the representation of knowledge should not be static as in abstract 
>networks, but dynamic, thus procedural, which means  that time and space must 
>be included in an ontology together with verbs that represent realtions at a 
>better detail (for the sake of identification) than the current relations you 
>know well enough are insufficient.
>       (016)

I may be missing Ferenc's point here.    (017)

This may be an argument for what should be in a physical ontology, but, 
to follow an earlier line, I cannot imagine how to apply spatial notions 
to most concepts in linguistics or psychology or even the famous 
oenology ontology.  And the application of temporal notions to those 
fields reflects specific dynamics that are concepts in those fields, 
such as "phonological/consonantal drift" and "aging".  Dynamic 
properties are just properties.  Concepts are verb-like and noun-like 
and modifier-like; some of the verb-like concepts are "dynamic" in 
nature.  "procedural" is an even narrower concept.    (018)

The dynamic behavior of a body of knowledge is a different concern from 
"dynamic concepts".  As Ferenc says, the sum of all human knowledge is 
constantly growing.  The question is:  How does that relate to knowledge 
engineering?     (019)

The representation of knowledge in any captured form, including 
ontologies, is by definition static.  It only changes by replacement.  
Its longevity and value is dependent on the breadth of experience that 
was represented in the encoded knowledge itself, and the relative rate 
of evolution and revolution of all knowledge in that domain.  Isaac 
Newton's physics was accepted for 225 years; Noam Chomsky's linguistics 
was accepted for about 30.  And both are still respected, but they are 
now understood as being valid only for a certain set of uses and in 
certain views.  Nothing we do about knowledge engineering as we 
understand it can change this.  When there is more knowledge in an area, 
some elements of some commonly used texts and ontologies will be 
obsolete and perhaps invalid, or like Newtonian physics, no longer valid 
for all uses, but still valid for many of the same old kinds of uses, 
including most new instances of them.    (020)

-Ed    (021)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                FAX: +1 301-975-4694    (022)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST, 
 and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (023)

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