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Re: [ontolog-forum] Quote for the day

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 03 Jan 2011 21:45:25 -0500
Message-id: <4D2289C5.3010608@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Ron and Pat,    (01)

People have been defining standard terminologies and specifications
for many centuries before anybody taught them to use the "O" word.    (02)

> I would think that local conformance concerns should be addressed by
> extensions and processes around an internationally agreed ontology.
> Having an unambiguous description of goods and services crossing borders
> (customs, homeland security, environment, regulatory reporting, etc.)
> would seem to provide a clear ROI for development of ontologies.    (03)

Many *centuries* before computers were invented, governments and
international standards bodies developed standards for navigation,
geographical coordinates, time, units of measure, screw threads,
wheat grains, chemical compounds, etc.  Note that the terms "Julian"
and "Gregorian" for dates refer to Julius Caesar and Pope Gregory.    (04)

> I would think that a universal description of a financial instrument
> would facilitate international trading of that security.    (05)

The Sumerians baked those financial instruments into clay tablets
many millennia ago.  Their successors were doing international
trade across the Silk Road from China to Europe and Africa over
three millennia ago.  The Phoenicians invented the alphabet to
keep track of all the goods they were shipping from port to
port around the Mediterranean to the British Isles.    (06)

The modern definitions were established by the Italian bankers
half a millennium ago.  Their successors were using international
electronic funds transfer by telegraph for many decades before the
Internet came along.    (07)

> The point I think is worth considering is that, unless one actually
> has a common vocabulary to describe one's models, there is no way
> to tell that they are in fact different.    (08)

I certainly agree -- and so would Julius Caesar, Pope Gregory, and
lots of Sumerians, Phoenicians, and Renaissance bankers.    (09)

Before we try to sell them on the idea of using ontologies, we have
to show them some advantage.  They know their business far better than
we do, they've been running it successfully for a long time, and we
need to show some clear value in this newfangled O-stuff.    (010)

> This suggests that the primitive elements may focus on observable
> phenomena, and perhaps also on mathematical or graphical primitives
> that can serve to build the mental models people use.    (011)

Look at the words 'suggests', 'may, and 'perhaps'.  That sounds far
too speculative to convince people who have been keeping precise
records about billions and trillions of dollars of commerce.    (012)

I really hope that the work on logic and ontology can succeed.
But it has to do something better than what people have been
doing already.  Vague suggestions that may perhaps do something
someday aren't going to convince anybody.    (013)

John    (014)

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