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Re: [ontolog-forum] Foundation ontology, CYC, and Mapping

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 04 Feb 2010 19:21:09 -0500
Message-id: <4B6B6475.9000004@xxxxxxxx>
Dave McComb wrote:    (01)

> We've found a foundation ontology with about 100 properties and 100 classes 
>typically needs another 100 properties to cover the kind of enterprise 
>ontologies we've been working with, and several hundred very specific 
>categories to cover the kinds of distinctions people generally create in 
>commercial systems, that aren't easily reduced to axioms.
>       (02)

Which, I assume means you didn't.  So you have several hundred very 
specific "primitive" classifications, i.e., "undefined" in any formal sense?    (03)

> Not only is it a productivity aid, over 90% of the classes we've defined have 
>been subclasses of the FO, which is encouraging as many organizations are 
>concerned about what to do as their systems boundaries are extended past their 
>four walls.  Even more than the productivity, it helps resolve ambiguity 
>earlier in the process than starting with a clean sheet of paper. 
>       (04)

I am curious as to how this follows.  If most of the several hundred 
useful business categories are defined to be subclasses of some abstract 
FO classifier, but not further defined by distinguishing features 
(axioms), how much ambiguity does that resolve?  I suspect that what 
Dave means is that some commonly used business/domain terms are used 
with multiple intents, such as referring to a physical thing and some 
conceptualization of it.  A common example is the commercial use of 
"product" to refer to a product instance or the design for it and/or the 
marketing concept.  And in that case, the value of the ontology is that 
it provides two different base concepts (physical thing and conceptual 
thing) for two or more distinguished terms, one of which refers to the 
physical things, and one of which refers to the conceptualization.  But 
it may not give you any way to distinguish between a product design and 
a plant design, because those are "kinds of distinctions people 
generally create in commercial systems that are not easily reduced to 
axioms."    (05)

Those of us who are highly skeptical of simplified upper ontologies, and 
upper ontologies in general, find this to be precisely why the beauty of 
upper ontologies is only in the eye of the beholder.  The upper ontology 
Dave describes may be somewhat useful in creating disciplined speech 
among humans, but it is of negligible value in reasoning systems.   If 
the several hundred concepts that cannot be axiomatized are effectively 
primitive concepts in the domains in which you have worked, why not just 
start there?  Put another way, if there are no useful axioms to 
distinguish these concepts, how do two people know that the concept has 
the same extension in their common world?  Most of the problems in 
communication arise not from people assigning meanings that are 
radically different in kind, but rather from people assigning meanings 
that have unpredictable overlaps in their extensions.  E.g., is a 
suicide bomber an "unlawful combatant" (under the Geneva conventions)?    (06)

-Ed    (07)

P.S.  I realize that by guessing at what Dave meant, I may be 
constructing the strawman I am knocking down.  My apologies if I am well 
wide of the mark.    (08)

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    (09)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST, 
 and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (010)

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