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Re: [ontolog-forum] Practical onomastics...

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 21 May 2010 08:34:25 -0400
Message-id: <4BF67DD1.5040105@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Matthew, Jack, Godfrey, Sean, et al.,    (01)

MW> A name can be its own identity. More particularly, the string
 > used as a name can be its own identity. Being a name is strictly
 > about a use of that string by some community to refer to something.    (02)

Yes, anything that can be used as a sign can, by some agreed
convention, be used as a name.    (03)

And to be fair, we should recognize that some names can be derived
automatically from some structure.  For example, our computers
have very conveniently addressable bits and bytes.  That enables
us to identify any bit uniquely by a simple algorithm.  We often
store those names, but we don't bother to store most of the names.    (04)

JP> I think the "can" part needs way more qualification. I say
 > that as one who gets confused by those who think I'm the
 > Jack Park who writes books about baseball.    (05)

And that is just one among many, many qualifications.    (06)

GR> I routinely work designing systems (as I'm sure many others
 > do) where names need their own identities so that statements
 > can be made about the name (for an example which I am dealing
 > with right now: in which territory is this identifier
 > recognised, where the identifier type has no inherent
 > territorial limitations?), and if a name is its own
 > identifier then that may be ambiguous    (07)

Yes.  Godfrey is building structure on top of the uniquely
named bits and bytes.  Most items of interest are not single
bits, but structures of noncontiguous bits, which are organized
for a particular purpose in order to be processed by specific
algorithms.  Naming those structures in a systematic way is
nontrivial -- and finding all the parts can be nontrivial.    (08)

GR> But I made my tongue in cheek remark because the issue that
 > John describes reflects the real world problem of "meta-metadata"
 > being much larger than the metadata it is describing, which I
 > am finding is increasingly a practical concern as the need for
 > identity becomes more and more granular.    (09)

Yes.  Even if we have unique names for each bit, the number
of interesting combinations of bits grows exponentially.    (010)

And I'm using the word 'exponentially' in its literal meaning.
If we have N bits in RAM, the number of subsets is 2^N .    (011)

And since we're interested in more structure than just a blob,
we have to add a few more exponents.  Consider the number of
possible ways of defining structure over a blob of M bits.    (012)

SB> However, a component may be installed in a system,
 > then modified, so that it is an exemplar of a different
 > specification...
 > In this case, one may wish to continue to track the history
 > of an individual, even though it is now a different type
 > of thing...    (013)

Yes.  That brings in the issues of changes, revisions, history,
and relationships among different things, processes, and agents.
Any of them may change the way something is typed, identified,
and named.   That means we have to consider the number of ways
any item can be related to any combination of other item:    (014)

That adds a lot more exponents to the estimated number of items
can be named.  And we're still talking about bits inside the
RAM of a digital computer.  When you get to the real world
with continuous variation in position, velocity, energy, and
interrelationships among everything, we get to the higher
cardinalities of infinity.    (015)

Summary:  If anybody is still dreaming of a unique naming scheme
for everything, I would quote the immortal words of the mythical
New Yorker:  Fuhgeddaboudit.    (016)

John    (017)

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