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Re: [ontolog-forum] Inventor of the Web Gets Backing to Build Web of Dat

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2010 08:59:27 -0500
Message-id: <4BAB6C3F.5070800@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Chris, Ali, and Pavithra,    (01)

CP> There is an 'orality and literacy' community that studies how
 > information technology and changes in the way people *think* are
 > linked - and there is lots of evidence that there are changes.
 > Whether these amount to a change in human nature is probably
 > debatable.    (02)

I certainly agree.  Every innovation of any kind changes, extends,
and refines the meanings of an enormous number of words.  Major
innovations create even more changes:  urban societies, writing,
the printing press, universal education, and modern technology
such as cars, telephones, airplanes, television, and computers.    (03)

AH> ... each heralded a completely new way of communicating with one
 > another and also a very fundamental shift in how people thought.    (04)

Note: "shift in how people thought" is different from the fundamental
processes of thinking.    (05)

AH> The development of linear though (and eventually logic) seems
 > closely coupled with writing (in lines), and the ensuing metaphors
 > such as "developing lines of thought."    (06)

I agree.  The influence of formal logic is comparable to the
"lines of thought" that became possible with the shift from
Roman numerals to Arabic numerals.  (But even today, many
people don't know enough math to experience that difference.)    (07)

AH> Such a shift is accented when we consider that in oral
 > traditions, an idea is ephemeral in space-time, and approaches
 > one's senses from all directions, whereas written text is
 > highly visual, linear, static etc....    (08)

The single most important innovation that makes it possible
to overcome the ephemeral nature of thought is language itself.
Even without writing, the oral bards preserved the details of
the Trojan war for about 500 years (from the bronze age in
the 13th century BC to the iron age in the 8th).    (09)

AH> All of these technologies most assuredly made fundamental
 > changes to how people think, talk and behave. I'm not going to
 > touch "human nature."    (010)

But those changes are comparable to the differences from one person
to the next in any society.  People raised on farms experience a
"culture shock" when they go to the big city.  Parents often ask
their children to program the VCR or log on to a computer.    (011)

My original statement addressed *the ways* that people think,
talk, and behave -- not the subject matter about which they think
or talk.  And I definitely meant human nature.    (012)

We are all born into a society where none of the above technologies
have any influence until the second year of life at the earliest.
Even then, they are of minor influence on early childhood compared
to the enormous differences crated by variations in the methods
of parenting.  Yet the foundations for semantics and ways of
thinking are well established by age three.    (013)

I agree that culture and methods of education have a major influence
on extending and refining those early influences.  But by age 5, the
foundation has been thoroughly established.  (And by the way, recent
studies on the exposure of infants to television indicate that it has
a *negative* influence on their development of language skills.)    (014)

CP> A good introduction to these topics is these two books:
 > Orality and Literacy (New Accents) Walter J. Ong
 > http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0415281296
 > The World on Paper: The Conceptual and Cognitive Implications
 > of Writing and Reading
 > David R. Olson
 > http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0521575583    (015)

Those are good references, and I agree that those issues have a
major impact on the further development of cognition.  But that
impact is comparable to the education after age 6.  It extends
and refines the cognitive options, it disciplines the thinking
processes, and it enlarges the vocabulary immensely.  But it
doesn't change the fundamentals on which semantics is based.    (016)

Language, by the way, is the single most important contribution
to developing the cognitive processes.  The chimps and bonobos
that have learned some form of language become very much more
"human like".  See, for example,    (017)

_The First Idea: How Symbols, Language, And Intelligence Evolved
 From Our Primate Ancestors To Modern Humans_. by Greenspan and
http://www.amazon.com/First-Idea-Language-Intelligence-Ancestors/dp/0738206806    (018)

Studies like this show that language is overwhelmingly more important
than the later innovations imposed on top of language, such as writing,
oral composition, and even computer games.    (019)

AH> That said, aside from the contentious paragraph, I too am in
 > broad agreement with the rest of your message.    (020)

Thanks.    (021)

PK> Google was considering including semantic concepts couple of months
 > ago...
 > I am not sure what you mean when you say it is not SW!  Semantic web
 > does not mean those tools that are build using RDF and OWL etc.. only!    (022)

By the term 'Semantic Web' I meant the developments based on top of
Tim B-L's layer-cake diagram.  That shows Unicode, URIs, and XML as
the foundation on which RDF is built.  Then OWL and other logics
are forced into a triple-style notation similar to RDF.    (023)

That paradigm constrained semantics by syntax.  I have no quarrel
about using RDF and OWL as one notation among many.  But the idea
of focusing on syntax instead of semantics was the fatal flaw.    (024)

I agree that Google and many other systems on the WWW use semantics,
but they don't abide by the layer-cake paradigm.  I strongly support
that approach.  But technically, it means that they are going outside
(or beyond) the paradigm of the layer cake.    (025)

I would be delighted if Sir Tim, the "Web Science Institute",
and the W3C would abandon the layer cake while keeping the name
Semantic Web. (They don't have to make a public announcement that
they're abandoning it -- they can just ignore it.)  That would
be an important step toward a truly semantic Semantic Web.    (026)

John    (027)

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