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[ontolog-forum] Looking for a razor

To: <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "sean barker" <sean.barker@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2010 20:17:09 +0100
Message-id: <C4EB2BF777EA4EA5850FF7DB31D43604@SMB>

Is there a named area of study which considers the specifically process of of interpreting a sign together with the shared knowledge needed by two agents who communicate (using signs)?

At one extreme, Agent 1 goes into a grocer's shop, and presses buttons on Agent 2 for "3", "red", and "apples", and a simple mechanical system delivers the fruit. Here the knowledge is all on Agent 1's side, and includes both the semantics of "3", "red", and "apples", and knowledge about vending machines.

At the other extreme, the two agents are people, say an American tourist having got off the Paris RER in one of the suburbs, and an Algerian shop keeper. In this, the American uses knowledge about common social systems, and therefore identifies the context "shop" and so knows the appropriateness of attempting to buy apples. On the other, the shop keeper identifies the probable language from knowledge of a range of languages, translates the phrasing to a probable match "Trois" "Pommes" and "Rouge" (including allowing for different syntactical structures in each language), and so on. Here both agents use a considerable amount of knowledge to be able to communicate at all. (The complete sequence of "Hungarian Tourist Guide" sketches by Monty Python can be used to extend the argument).

The reason for the question is that the semantic web relies on symbols which are effectively decoded in advance (are the fixed buttons in the first example or URIs in RDF). A major goal of the semantic web is to broker communication between agents which either use common symbols or equivalent symbols (sameAs). However, the business processes which stand behind such operations ground the symbols in the artefacts and actions of the systems operating those processes. Communication is reliably only if the symbols used by both agents are grounded in the same way - I note that a number of the arguments on this forum seem to be between two camps, one assuming that the grounding problem is trivial, the other assuming that it is extremely difficult. Therefore I am looking for a razor that can cut between the "ontologies as a formal system" and "ontology term grounding" parts of the discussion, and so ensure that both parts are solved.

I should also throw in my view is that the ontology classes used by a business process are exactly those classes which label the alternative routes onward from a decision process, and therefore define the grounding of terms.

Sean Barker


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