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[ontolog-forum] Fw: Context in a sentence

To: <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "Patrick Cassidy [pat@xxxxxxxxx]"@mccarthy.cim3.com
From: "sean barker" <sean.barker@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 26 Jan 2010 20:12:05 -0000
Message-id: <CFA7B63B95884BE9BB13612D5077269C@SMB>
    I suspect that the claim "we need a common foundational ontology" is exactly equivalent to David's quotation "(1) the entire meaning of a message is self-contained in said message", since if we have a common foundational ontology we should be able to make statements in the ontology that are true irrespective of context.
I would interpret C.S.Peirce's definition as saying that communication happens when an agent sends symbol A and it invokes a knowledge based procedure leading to symbol B in a second agent, and both A and B refer to the same (concept) C.
Caveat - I do not claim that this is Peirce's interpretation, or even that he would agree with it, but its my B to his A.
The point being is that context (what ever that is) defines the inference task in which A is used to invoke B. Even on the Semantic Web, the context that it is the semantic web defines particular processing protocols which invoke a system that understands OWL or RDF rather than one that only understands HTML or even EDIFACT.
However, more broadly, I would reject the idea that there is only one way to talk about the world. In this context, I would say there are in fact two distinct types of ontolology, those that talk about the world, and those that model the world, and that these two views of ontology are incompatible. (A foundation ontology is a model of the world). Perhaps, following Protégé, we could distinguish them by having as TOP "word" and "thing".
This is not to say that I don't think common ontologies are a bad idea - they are essential for engineered applications - or rather, applications engineered to match a particular human or business context. However, they are not a universal panacea simply because different contexts will be understood through different ontologies.
One might propose that, because we are all the same type of creature (human) that we must therefore all use the same mechanisms for thought, and this must lead to the same foundational concepts. This would imply firstly, that the variation in humans is too small to allow for different mechanisms for thought, and secondly, that the mechanisms of thought are entirely conditioned by our genetic inheritance and are not affected by environment. Both questions should be scientifically verifiable, and indeed may already have been determined, however, this is not my area of expertise, although I would strongly suspect both hypotheses to be false.
So, no context free language, no common foundational ontologies.

Sean Barker


From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Patrick Cassidy
Sent: 26 January 2010 05:52
To: '[ontolog-forum] '
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Context in a sentence

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>> I want something--MT?  Ontology support?--that can read Fortran, Jovial, COBOL. Java, PHP, Ruby, C, etc. (oops... that's a computer language) documents & make (more) sense out of said documents.  These are textual artifacts (therefore "documents"?) which may or may not be written by humans, they're decidedly NOT edited for readability, and they are really not intended for human consumption.


I believe that current ontology technology, or  extensions of it (to include procedural attachments) has the technical capability to do such things.  But non-trivial applications will be quite labor-intensive to implement.


As I see it, ontology technology is still in its infancy ? or perhaps still embryonic.   I have had great difficulty finding any publicly inspectable (open source) applications that go much beyond an advanced version of database information retrieval ? adding in a little logical inference, but not using that inference to do anything conspicuously more impressive than RDB?s themselves.  CYC suggests it has built applications that do that, but we do not have them available for public testing ? and much of CYC is still proprietary, a big turn-off for those who need a language that can be used freely.


John Sowa has told us that he uses a combination of techniques to solve knotty problems efficiently.   I believe that is what will be very effective in general, but for that to work outside the confines of a single group ? i.e. to enable multiple separately developed agents to cooperate in solving a problem- they will also need a common language to accurately communicate information.


The problem, as I perceive it is that, although up to now there has been great progress in understanding the science (mathematical properties) of inference ? for which we can be grateful to the mathematicians and logicians -  understanding inference only provides a **grammar**  and a minimal basic **semantics** for a language that computers can understand.  What we have very little agreement on is the **vocabulary**, without which there is no useful language.  For computers to properly interpret each other?s data, it is necessary to have a common vocabulary ? or vocabularies that can be **accurately** translated.   Such a translation mechanism is possible if a common foundation ontology were adopted, which would have representations of all the fundamental concepts necessary to logically describe the domain concepts of the ontologies in programs  that need to communicate data.  It is a measure of the pre-scientific nature of the field that there is actually even disagreement about the need for a common foundation ontology.  To me it is blindingly obvious ? one cannot communicate without a common language (including vocabulary); there are no exceptions.  But most efforts at interoperability among separately developed ontologies currently focus on developing mappings in some automated manner ? which any inspection immediately reveals cannot be done with enough accuracy to allow machines to make mission-critical decisions based on such inaccurate mappings.  Accurate mappings are possible via a common foundation ontology.  But for reasons that I believe are not based on relevant technical considerations, there is little enthusiasm for developing such an ontology at present.  Past efforts have failed, because they depended on voluntary commitment of a great deal of time from participants in order to find common ground among a large enough user community.  What will work is if a large developing community is **paid** to build and test a common foundation ontology and demonstrate its capability for broad general semantic interoperability.  I am certain it will happen sometime that such an ontology will be developed, because the need for it and benefits of it are so compelling.  The only question for me is how much time and money will be wasted before such a widely used foundation ontology is developed and tested in multiple applications ? and who will pay for it.


So, I believe that current ontology technology provides the basis to tackle the problems you cite, but I don?t know of any off-the-shelf programs that can do that now.  Perhaps someone has developed one?





Patrick Cassidy



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