On 23/04/2011 12:28 PM, John F. Sowa wrote:
> Ali, Pat, Matthew, and Patrick,
>> Cost in this context means that changing and admitting a novel
>> core ontology should not be a trivial procedure.
> The key term is 'admitting', and the next question is "Admitting
> to what?" To be concrete, suppose that somebody wants to submit
> an ontology to some organization, say the OOR. That organization
> would establish various conditions.
If the proposer is the US government or Walmart, your conditions will be
very minimal and show extreme flexibility and willingness to accommodate. (01)
> For example, anybody could submit anything for free, and it
> could be posted as an untested proposal. If it fails various
> tests, it would be rejected. If it passes basic tests, it
> could be posted as a proposal that has passed those tests.
> Then other users could provide testimonials: they tried it,
> and it produced results that were (a) good, (b) bad, .....
> A proposal that changes high-level assumptions might cause
> considerable disruption, and many testimonials would say so.
> But others might give glowing reviews that show how the new
> ontology solves some critical problems.
> That is the normal way that science and engineering progress.
>> If the "purpose" is interoperability, then it does indeed make
>> sense to have a single common foundation ontology.
> But the word 'interoperability' has many different levels.
> For example, the Amazon.com database interoperates with thousands
> of DBs around the world. But the amount of detail is limited:
> product name, type, identifier (ISBN or part number), price, etc.
>> The purpose of a common foundation ontology is to provide an
>> interlingua for translation among a very large number of other
>> ontologies; it is only needed for that purpose.
> By that criterion, the database schema by Amazon.com is an
> interlingua that enables interoperability with the ontologies
> of thousands of DBs and KBs around the world.
> That "bare bones" level of detail is typical of most interactions
> on the WWW and the Semantic Web. Key terms like 'product' are so
> loosely defined that they cover anything from books, to cameras,
> to groceries without giving any detail.
>> The common foundation ontology can be of modest size - I suspect
>> it can be kept to under ten thousand elements...
>> But I am convinced that no other approach will work, and until
>> the common foundation ontology is given a serious try...
>> For interoperability it is not another foundation ontology that is
>> needed, but a mapping between the different foundations that are already
>> found. These in turn can be traced back to the ontological commitments made
>> in those foundation ontologies, and how those ontological commitments
>> translate in practical terms.
> I agree. But I would add that legacy systems are based on *implicit*
> ontologies, which are just as important as any explicit ontology.
> It's useful to make those ontologies explicit, but don't ignore
> legacy systems just because their ontology is implicit.
> Computers have been interoperating successfully since they were
> first lashed together in the late 1950s. Long before that, companies
> interoperated by punched cards, banks interoperated by hand-written
> notes since the 16th century, and don't forget cuneiform tablets for
> international commerce in 3000 BC.
>> You need perhaps a hundred or so concepts, so rather less than the
>> 10,000 you mention.
>> The other good thing is that there is nothing to mandate. The mappings
>> deal with how different situations are dealt with under the different
>> ontological commitments, and they can be developed from use cases that
>> cover the usual difficulties. There are probably about 10-20 of those.
> I agree that a small number of concepts is sufficient for interactions
> at the level of detail from the the Sumerians to the Amazon DB schema.
> Engineers need much more detail, but don't forget that in 1969, they
> got hundreds of computers at companies and government agencies to
> interoperate in putting a man on the moon.
>> Curious if you have compared the growth of the Semantic Web with Esperanto?
>> Thinking the higher % of semantics in a medium (think RDF/RDFa), the
>> slower the growth rate (or even the possibility of growth).
> It's not semantics that stopped the growth of Esperanto -- it's the
> much more rapid growth of English after WW II. English has the
> largest semantics (in terms of the size of its dictionaries), but
> it succeeded because of supporting infrastructure.
We also have easily adopted appropriate interoperability methods that
let us understand that "Put the groceries in the boot has nothing to do
with footware" and "Knock me up in the morning" needs to have a local
interpretation if you want to avoid an embarrassing situation or a
> The adoption rate of RDFa has been rapid because it makes a simple
> extension to HTML, it doesn't require a bloated notation, and it is
> easy to integrate with all the programming languages and databases
> used in commercial web sites. (For the same reasons, PHP and AJAX
> also grew much, much more rapidly than the SemWeb.)
> And by the way, Esperantists ignored what I believe is the *only*
> semi-artificial language that had any chance of succeeding: Peano's
> Latina sine Flexione. In 1903, it had a large infrastructure --
> including a huge population that could learn it with much less
> effort than learning English -- or even Esperanto.
> I would compare the Esperantists to the Semantic Webbers. They
> tried to start from scratch and ignored the "low-hanging fruit".
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