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Re: [ontolog-forum] (renamed) Terms with fixed/multiple meanings

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Rich Cooper" <rich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 9 Sep 2010 14:53:10 -0700
Message-id: <20100909215317.ABCBA138CD6@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

Alex, Bill and John,


That WAY oversteps the reality of “at least science, technology, engineering, medicine and law”, none of which leave much basis for asserting that a single meaning is usefully occurring in those technologies.  


Science – among the divergent string theorists, quantum theorists, experimental theorists, all would find the assertion of consistent meaning to be poorly based in the current science.  Heisenberg would turn over in his grave.  Even older science, e.g. Newtonian physics, is only unambiguous when you have enough constraints around the problem to filter down to a single interpretation.  


But most of science today is empirical, not theoretically rich with singular explanations.  Medicine, data mining, market analysis, psychological models of behavior, all are rife with disagreement even at the level of whether the tiny amount of mercury in children’s shots causes disease.  


Technology – if there were one unified metric of goodness, why are there so many different ways of building even common products like computers?  Same heat discharge, power supply life, communications radius, and other metrics are only roughly predictable using the current (I claim ontological) knowledge of how SOME things work.  


Engineering – this is VERY empirical in nearly all modeling of physical systems for practical engineering purposes.  Few engineering teams can even map requirements documents into singular designs for any basic set of constraints.  


Medicine and Law – try to get consistent opinions from a herd of physicians and lawyers on anything, even how to treat the common cold (e.g., consider Linus Pauling’s vitamin C assertions, the stem cell results analyses, the health care law), and how and who to sue for damages.  


I find the assertion that any USEFUL ontology has to have singular meanings to be inapplicable to nearly ever discipline with deep studies behind it.  Ontologies are only BELIEVED to be singular in interpretation, but fail the test in nearly any way that is broadly useful.  


So the belief that any useful ontology is singularly meaningful doesn’t hold water, IMHO.  


Going back to WordNet as an ontology, add whatever extensions and intensions you wish, the antepenultimate English speaker will disagree with the penultimate one quoting the ultimate one’s statements.  So that is perfectly consistent with the practical realities of ontologies, IMHO.  






Rich Cooper


Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com

9 4 9 \ 5 2 5 - 5 7 1 2

From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Alex Shkotin
Sent: Thursday, September 09, 2010 10:36 AM
To: [ontolog-forum]
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] (renamed) Terms with fixed/multiple meanings


Bill: - "Like everything in AI, it seems, it'll be useful in special cases, but not in general."

Alex: - Bill, I hope these "special cases" include at least science, technology, engineering, medicine and law;-)
A lot of thing to do:-)
And not a "multiple meanings" in different contexts is a problem but possibility and precision of definition.


2010/9/9 Burkett, William [USA] <burkett_william@xxxxxxx>

John: I understand your point that a "term" in a formal language (e.g., ontology) should have a single, unique definition - this allows automated processors to (soundly) do something with statements in the language.

It is important to point out, however, that this requirement addresses a very small set of users "out there in web-land" - less than 1% I would guess.  The "semantic web" will never materialize with this requirement because, simply, a very very large percentage of data-creators don't have the understanding and won't devote the time/rigor required to create these semantically precise statements.  Most will create their schemas and ontologies and create their data using their natural language skills/capabilities/facilities - leading to multiple and evolving meanings.  So, realistically, except for a very small population, "terms" that are used to name things in web-land *will* have multiple meanings.   We can exclude those undisciplined cases and operate in our own small, rigorous, well-defined world - but how useful will that really be?  (Like everything in AI, it seems, it'll be useful in special cases, but not in general.)

As I write this, it brings the question of scope to my mind: in our discussions here are we ONLY interested in talking about formal ontologies with precisely-defined semantics that can soundly reasoned over, or are we talking about the "semantic web" (or "semantic enterprises") in general where, presumably, we can evolve to a point where processors can do something will all the data "out there in web-land"?


-----Original Message-----
From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of John F. Sowa
Sent: Wednesday, September 08, 2010 4:04 PM
To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Semantic Enterprise Architecture - Interoperability?

David and Doug,

DF>> a Semantic Web needs ontologies of terms with fixed meanings

DE> Is this saying that a term (word, phrase, acronym, abbreviation,
> whatever) can only have a single meaning?

We must always distinguish the names of relations and instances
in any formal language from the words in any natural language
that is being mapped to that formal language.

DF used the word 'term' for the symbols in some formal language.
Those symbols should have unique definitions.

DE was talking about the words used in some NL that is being
mapped to the symbols of some formal language.

The names used in the formalism should never be identified
with the words in the NL -- even when their spelling happens
to be similar.



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