John Sowa wrote:
> >> But a top-down, monolithic, detailed, universal ontology of
> everything is not only impossible to achieve...
> In notes to the SUO list and Ontolog Forum for the past ten years,
> I've been giving reasons upon reasons why it is futile to search
> for a perfect top-level ontology. Yet many people have continued
> to propose such things. Every one of those proposals has been
> severely criticized as inadequate, usually for multiple theoretical
> and practical reasons.
There is in my mind a vast difference between a " top-down, monolithic,
detailed, universal ontology of everything" and a " perfect top-level
ontology". Perhaps John could supply examples of these two different things
that have actually been proposed by someone. I don't recall any. (02)
There is, of course, a "perfect top-level ontology" being the possible
*basic* things that can exist in the real world, combined by the laws of
physics - - but no one I know of has proposed that s/he has figured out
that ultimate theory of everything. When it comes to domain ontologies,
there are of course an infinite number that can be generated by combinations
of the basic entities. In this discussion it would be useful to give
specific examples of what has been proposed and provide specific criticisms
of that. (03)
> -----Original Message-----
> From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-
> bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of John F. Sowa
> Sent: Monday, February 14, 2011 11:58 AM
> To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] IBM Watson on Jeopardy
> Pierre, Krzysztof, Simon, and Doug,
> I'm returning to the original subject line in order to emphasize
> the continuity with the issues about Watson.
> > The nature of the alleged impossibility is unclear and the various
> > characteristics do not seem particularly well on a par as prospective
> > causes.
> > You will excuse the non-native speaker if my command of English is
> > not sufficient to see through the apparent paradox that something
> > allegedly impossible to achieve may also lead to disaster when acted
> > on. So, is the warning here that somebody will lose their mind in the
> > raving lunacy of illusory omniscience?
> > What, precisely, is said here?
> The disaster can arise from people in a position of power who ignore
> the criticisms and edict their choice as a requirement to be imposed
> on everybody else.
> The most successful standards are *de facto* standards that people
> voluntarily choose because they find them useful. But the only
> widely accepted de facto standards are terminologies and things
> like WordNet that nobody considers adequate as a formal ontology.
> The lack of widespread support for universal ontologies is evidence
> that none of them are sufficiently mature to be considered as
> an official standard. However, many ontologies are very good and
> quite useful as special-purpose modules (or microtheories).
> >> I could not agree more [with JFS], this would be almost like
> >> a conceptualization oligarchy. The even more important point
> >> however is that it is impossible and we should stop doing it.
> > This is a very pessimistic view on progress, in science, and human
> > matters in general. Granting the impossibility of the task for the
> > sake of the argument (as noted above, I am not entirely sure of what
> > the task at hands is), great things can be achieved when trying the
> > impossible.
> I agree that there should never be a prohibition on anybody who
> wants to pursue his or her insights as pure research.
> Unfortunately, there are people who attempt (and sometimes succeed)
> in converting untested research proposals into official standards.
> > I'm not sure that Cyc is necessarily the best example of a top-down
> > and monolithic ontology; a lot of the more detailed areas show clear
> > signs of middle out development driven by specific projects. The
> > idea of microtheories at makes a start towards enabling modularity;
> > it's the presence of the gigantic macrotheories where everything
> > to depend on everything else that makes it hard to figure out.
> I agree. But in 1984, when the Cyc project began, the goal was to
> develop a monolithic ontology and knowledge base. After a few years,
> they recognized the inevitable conflicts that arise between different
> points of view that are equally valid for different kinds of problems.
> During the 1990s, Cyc was completely revised, reorganized, and
> modularized into a basic backbone hierarchy plus microtheories.
> The current version has over 6000 microtheories.
> In that revision, most of the detailed axioms were removed from
> the upper levels and pushed down to the middle and lower levels.
> I have a very high regard for the hundreds of person-years of hard
> work that went into the development of Cyc, and I believe that it
> is a valuable resource. But at the same time, I would recommend
> a methodology closer to Watson for developing a system designed
> for question answering and commonsense reasoning.
> > One often sees that several contestants on Jeopardy are pushing the
> > but one wins on timing. How's that going to work out on Jeopardy?
> We'll see tonight at 7 pm EST. Stay tuned.
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