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

To: John Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Mills Davis <lmd@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 3 Mar 2010 11:30:36 -0500
Message-id: <24CF7AF5-A1D8-438B-8E9F-3AD5A61061EF@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

I'm encouraged by the direction of this discussion thread. Especially, I think that your advocacy of a lattice or hierarchy of ontologies is a good one if we can agree on conventions for instantiating sibling ontologies, ontologies that are more general, ones that more specialized, as well as rules for identity and provenance of versions. It seems that these same conventions should apply well when someone maps two or more ontologies together creating a knowledge fabric, which is a new instance that should have its own identity and provenance.

I feel some urgency that the Ontolog community should come together on these issues, especially now that increasing amounts of information are being exposed on the web as linked data. To date most of the emphasis (e.g., TBL's rules for publishing linked data) has been on getting more data available on the web.  However, linked data is not the same as connected data, where value can increase (beyond what webscale search engines are able to do already) with the density of relationships. For this  to happen communities need policies, practices, and tooling to help manage and curate emerging fabrics and data spaces. 

Let me give a practical near-term example. The Open Energy Information initiative sponsored by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) seeks to establish a global energy information commons based on linked open data and data commons principles. The initiative has support from multiple government organizations, institutions, industry players in the US, north america, europe, etc., Its mission is to aggregate, organize, and provide open access to the world's information about renewable energy, to help catalyze and accelerate the development and transition of world economies to a sustainable energy future.  

Currently, NREL is wrestling with the issue of how best to approach data quality, and what principles, policies, practices and web-based tooling they should advocate and bring to the global energy community. Data quality and data sharing is hardly a new issue. There is a lot that is known, and ample literature exists dealing with related topics. However, what is new is the emergence of semantic web based approaches, the need for collaboration across diverse communities, and web scale information and sharing. These require some rethinking of policies; a new formulation of best practices for data management, data quality and information sharing; and some new tooling.

My challenge to the Ontolog community is to come together to provide some practical guidance for how (global) communities such as this one can best approach the management of networked data, data fabrics, and data sharing.


On Mar 3, 2010, at 9:59 AM, John F. Sowa wrote:

Dear Matthew, Pat, Pat, and Ali,

I agree with that point:

MW> I don't think Longman's will do much good for us, though I
equally doubt it will do much harm. Frankly, I'd rather PatC
got on with doing something with it so we had some evidence
we could look at rather than debate a priori what the effect
would be.

We've all seen many failures of committees to reach a consensus.
Furthermore, we've seen a growing number of independently
developed ontologies.  Most of them pick and choose excerpts from
one another.  But they never converge on a common foundation.

MW> There inevitably are/will be several upper/foundation ontologies.
I do think there is a chance to abstract something as John says
underspecified, and I do think that could be useful. This is not
really what PatC is after, but it is not incompatible with his
aims either...

I think we need to allow multiple upper ontologies and mappings
between them. Underspecified/abstract elements would be useful
to make the mapping easier. They do take on different meanings
when added to different ontologies, but that is fine.

Yes.  The hierarchy of theories is designed to accept any reasonable
contributions of any size.  It can then make all interrelationships
among the ontologies and subontologies explicit.  By itself, the
hierarchy is unbiased and egalitarian.  But the reviews by users and
domain experts can provide the guidance for making rational choices.

PH> The other worry I have about 'intended interpretation' is that,
even when working alone, one finds that the very process of writing
the formal axioms sharpens and sometimes forces one to modify ones
own pre-formal intuitions.

Yes.  And the users also modify their intuitions and intentions
when they see the results.  Engineers have a slogan:

   Customers never know what they want until they see what they get.

PC> But part of the problem is mitigated by allowing multiple different
ways of representing the same entity in the FO, as long as they are
logically compatible and have translations between them....

The need to refine intuitions and record those distinction in
logically precise form has always been part of the ontology-building
process.  Hard work to be sure, but not impossible.

That statement can serve as a good basis for collaboration.

AH> In fact, except for the quest to identify and create a special
foundation ontology out of the primitives, what you are now
proposing is indistinguishable from what is already underway via
COLORE. COLORE is gathering all ontologies written using CLIF
regardless of their terminology or quirks. It  provides a growing
platform (a repository) in which they may be inputted and relations
between them explored, identified and formalized.




As we have agreed in other email notes, the COLORE methodology
is completely compatible with the hierarchy of theories. The work
that has already been done for COLORE is an excellent beginning.

But I would add some further extensions to the COLORE slides:

 1. The ontologies can be represented in any notation that has
    a formal mapping to Common Logic.  That includes all the
    Semantic Web ontologies and many others.  But that mapping
    must be done before they can be admitted to the hierarchy.

 2. Various projects and their developers and users have different
    preferences and requirements for notations.  Therefore, any
    ontology in the hierarchy may have multiple representations
    for each axiom, and the tools for displaying and editing
    ontologies can have options for highlighting or suppressing
    some of the options.

 3. UML diagrams and controlled natural languages (CNLs) have also
    been translated to Common Logic, and many users have found them
    to be much more readable than CLIF and other notations used
    for logic.  The SUMO developers, for example, use controlled
    English for comments that can be automatically translated to KIF.
    Such notations should not only be supported, they should be

 4. Many important ontologies that could be converted to CL have
    not yet been converted.  SUMO, for example, was written in KIF,
    which is a predecessor to CLIF.  Most statements in KIF can be
    converted to CLIF with little or no change.  But a few rarely
    used features of KIF must be checked for compatibility.

 5. The CycL language used for Cyc can mostly be converted to CL
    with little or no change.  But the full CycL language uses
    metalevel features that require the IKL extensions to CL.
    We should consider broadening the scope to include IKL.

 6. Some of the diagrams in those that show relationships among
    theories can be enhanced or redrawn to show the relationships
    to the lattice of theories.

 7. The limitation of OOR to just the notations currently
    supported by Protege is untenable.  OOR must support full
    CL and even IKL.  The Protege tools should be extended
    or combined with tools that support those languages.

Point #7 is critical.  The Semantic Web includes an important
collection of technologies, which must be supported.  But they
have already moved beyond RDFS and OWL by including Horn-clause
logics.  Furthermore, relational databases still support the
world economy, and the constraints and queries used for RDBs
are written in full first-order logic.  The EXPRESS language,
which Matthew and others have been using, also requires full
FOL.  And Cyc, the biggest formal ontology on earth, uses a
superset of FOL.  The OOR *must* support these systems.

I am currently writing a report based on excerpts from recent
email notes to Ontolog Forum that elaborate these points.
I'll post a first draft by this weekend.  Next week, we can
discuss further modifications and updates on Ontolog Forum,
and I'll post a new version of the report by March 12th.

After the Ontology Summit at NIST on March 16th, we can
discuss that report and other related issues in the session
scheduled from 3:45 to 5:15.


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