Viewpoint is EVERYTHING in systems, and ontologies simply comprise specific
classes of systems, just without the energy to drive - an ontology is a specification
of a system.
Even such straightforward concepts as value and cost are deeply
dependent on the viewpoint of who (not what) is doing the observing. I
found a clear example that may be useful to illustrate how important the
uniqueness of each viewpoint is. Please see the clip pasted below.
Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com
9 4 9 \ 5 2 5 - 5 7 1 2
There’s a really interesting story that comes
from the Stanford
Entrepreneurship Center where Christine Benninger,
president of the Humane Society Silicon Valley, talks about how she leveraged
the axiom “you get what you pay for” to successfully solve a major
problem with regards to the chapter’s unacceptable return rates of
previously adopted dogs and cats.
For many years, the Humane Society had charged an
adoption rate of $25 for cats and $40 for dogs. At those relatively low prices,
the adoption business was brisk, but the problem of cats and dogs being
returned to the shelter was overwhelming the staff and facilities. At the same
time, the California Veterinary Medical Association conducted a study that
looked at what types of animals get returned to shelters, and an offshoot to
this study also looked at the relationship between the rates of return for
animals and the price that had been paid for them. This part of the study
showed that there was a very strong correlation between the amount paid for the
animal and the likelihood that the animal would someday be returned to the
shelter: the lower the adoption price, the higher the likelihood that the
animal would be returned.
Armed with the data from the study, Benninger went to
her board to propose significant price hikes. She wanted to raise the adoption
price for both cats and dogs to $110—an increase of over 400 percent for
cats and almost 300 percent for dogs. Naturally, Benninger’s staff and
the board pushed back on the proposed price increases, citing the opinion that
while the price hike might make a dent in the return rates, it would
significantly affect their adoption rates. The staff’s resistance to the
hike could be summed up quite succinctly with one question: “Who’s
going to pay $110 for a six year-old dog?”
Despite the resistance, the board approved the price
hikes. Guess what happened? During the first year, adoptions actually increased
10 percent and more importantly, their rate of return was cut by 50 percent.
The response was exactly as Benninger had predicted: As the perceived value of
the adopted animals increased, so too did the reluctance of their owners to
return the pets to the shelter. In the years that followed, the Humane Society
Silicon Valley continues to use price with great success as a major tool in
instilling the perception of value among their customer base.
Today, 99 percent of the animals available for
adoption find new homes; ten years ago, less than 15 percent found new homes.
Under Benninger’s leadership, the Humane Society’s volunteer base
increased from fifty to more than 700, and the shelter’s donor base
increased from 300 to 30,000 donors.