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Re: [ontolog-forum] intangibles (was RE: Why most classificationsare fuz

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From: "Richard Vines" <plessons@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 8 Aug 2011 21:28:08 +1000
Message-id: <001801cc55be$403ba660$c0b2f320$@netspace.net.au>

Thanks Rich for reading this material.


This quote:


We use the term ‘ontological’ quite deliberately in that expanded information and

meaning frameworks are generated by people. Thus, people use their innate intelligence

and sense of being to create relationships, to create meaning, and to solve problems. Such

meaning frameworks are not generated by machines but through the use of human

interpretative intelligence


which you referred to is foundational to some of this thinking – so I was interested that you picked this up. In fact the idea about human interpretative intelligence (which has its origins in this lengthy piece on interoperability) came from a well-known American economist called Paul David. Thus I was very interested that you referenced economists such as Friedman, Hayek and Smith!


You have posed some big questions, so apologies if this is an overly lengthy response. In a way, I probably deserve this, because as John pointed out this idea of “evolutionary possibility” is a significant topic in its own right, and I would also add still slightly speculative.


I am not sure exactly what you might mean by a full and adequate accounting of self interest. If you mean that digital technologies might allow us to aggregate multiple perspectives to give real expressions to pluralism, I am not sure necessarily if this logic will actually be a cure for the problem of excessive system constraint that you described about the dynamics of current politics in the US. Hierarchically complex systems are just that – hierarchical and complex.


I wonder what would come up if your idea of a full account of self-interest were to be applied to an analysis of the Mexican Gulf oil leak for example? Would one have to poll all workers on oil rigs to gain access to the type of self-interest that would expose substandard work to avoid a system failure? I am probably misunderstanding your idea, but I doubt if this would be a realistic solution.


Or for example, the GFC itself. The recent film "The Insider'sJob" is an interesting expose of how decision making capacity is not a neutral space - the film shows how the role of markets are distorted by biases, even if it takes years for these distortions to become evident. It is also not so kind on many economists. Would a poll of all financial services industry players to access a full account of self-interest prevent this type of system collapse and the ways in which some economists contributed to a closed system? Again, I am not sure if this offers a realistic solution.


I take the view that constructivism has a lot to do with this conversation.


I am sure there are others in this group that would be better able to discuss this …. I see constructivism as a perspective of knowledge and meaning that is constructed by the individual without acknowledging the possibility of a reality separate from the knowing self. Social constructivism goes one step further and suggests that knowledge is socially constructed, but once again, the possibility of a reality separate from the knowing selves is not accepted. And, radical constructivism goes even one step further and suggests that knowledge is developed in a biological sense through self organised cognitive processes:


Ernst von Glasersfeld was a prominent proponent of radical constructivism, which claims that knowledge is the self-organized cognitive process of the human brain. That is, the process of constructing knowledge regulates itself, and since knowledge is a construct rather than a compilation of empirical data, it is impossible to know the extent to which knowledge reflects an ontological  reality (sorry for quoting Wikipedia here!!).


Even evolutionary biologists such as Humberto Maturana are proponents of this idea of radical constructivism.


I am sympathetic to this constructivist position. It makes practical sense that knowledge is constructed, even socially constructed and that the dualism of separating the knowing subject (i.e. a person in this case) from the knowledge context is now discredited.


However, I take the view that other types of knowledge do emerge through time (the idea that knowledge is an emergent property of an evolutionary system) and …. Also …..  that we cannot prove something to be true by believing in our own meaning making. Thus, a constructivists position is on its own, an in-adequate position to take.


A few of us have tried to have a go at documenting an extended way of thinking about these matters in this chapter which forms part of a book on the Semantic Web.  The objective has been to speculate that it might be possible to reconcile some of these almost incommensurable views of different types of knowledge. This is not an easy read, and I am the first to admit that these views are speculative [I also think that some of these ideas are now not quite correct either]. But, I have not had a chance to do anything about correcting this.


The core problem I have with relying solely on constructivist views of knowledge, is the idea that ultimately, in the final analysis, knowledge regulates itself and that as a result, systems have a propensity towards self-regulation and indeed closed systems (take for example the regulation of oil rigs within the off shore drilling industry as an example).


In contrast, I think regulatory systems need to be built on a foundation of reflexive knowledge processes that allows for human interpretative intelligence to be applied at multiple levels of context throughout the system being regulated. An evolving and distributed evidence base (manifest perhaps as patterns of a “whole system “) gives rise to a need to adjust the specification requirements.


Regulatory systems that allow us to conveniently forget about the relationship between the knowledge artefact (may be this might be the content of a loan contract document) and the knowing subject (the borrower) are doomed to fail. At base level, it is my understanding this is what happened in the loans crisis as a prelude to the GFC.


In a similar sense, interoperability of XML schemas can only be mediated by human intervention to mediate context based meaning and to resolve semantic incommensurability. If we pre-specify machine based rules to support interoperability, we are likely to overly constrain any system. Further, if we decontextualize (or decouple) these relationships (or overly constrain the ability to allow for human interpretative intelligence) we also fundamentally alter the way we think about knowledge itself.


Thus, I would argue that regulatory systems need to be understood and should be designed as “knowledge systems” based on a range of different types of knowledge. Now this might be perceived as anti “free market” because it is premised on the idea there is a need for regulation in the first instance, but also that these regulatory interventions become variable and excessively dynamic. (i.e. because they are open to players within the system and rely on distributed networks to support these reflexive processes).


However, if we rely exclusively on arms-length regulatory systems (as we do now) then the challenge remains to ensure that we protect against a slide into closed knowledge systems (or said in another way prevent the over ascendance of constructivist views of knowledge over other types of knowledge).


As you yourself suggest, current regulatory systems are very much wanting. And, like you suggest current systems are problematic because they are overseen by governments that are least free of markets. The subtle increase of burden creep is very much connected to these same ideas.


The paper you read is really an attempt to show what might be possible if there is a systematic uptake of structuring regulatory specifications using the Encoded Archival Context – Corporate bodies, Persons, and Families (EAC-CPF)  standard as a framework as well as the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) Framework that sits alongside it. It remains to be seen whether these ideas have any merit. But, I think it holds some promise if enough people can grasp what might be possible.


I should add to all of this, that in the final analysis, here I am speculating based on some work I undertook now a couple of years ago. I hope this makes vague sense and that I have not overly generalised.


This topic might be slightly off cue for this group, so happy if it is just a once off post.


Cheers for now,














From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Rich Cooper
Sent: Monday, 8 August 2011 4:59 AM
To: '[ontolog-forum] '
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] intangibles (was RE: Why most classificationsare fuzzy)


Dear Richard,


Having read your paper, I like the way you formulated the problem to be solved in terms of various groups.  In particular your quote:


We use the term ‘ontological’ quite deliberately in that expanded information and

meaning frameworks are generated by people. Thus, people use their innate intelligence

and sense of being to create relationships, to create meaning, and to solve problems. Such

meaning frameworks are not generated by machines but through the use of human

interpretative intelligence (Vines and Firestone, forthcoming).


This is an interesting formulation, though I am not familiar with the examples from Australian politics you use to illustrate the principles.  But it seems to me that self interest, widely distributed among the population, and often at odds with the commons, that should drive the system instead of regulatory bodies. 


Here in the US, if you have been watching our silly struggle over the fiscal state of the country, you can see demonstrated the two or three major viewpoints to which all parties subscribe.  Republican, Democrat and Tea Party actors hew to only three major value systems.  That is like mapping a fourteen dimensional physics onto a two dimensional paper substrate. 


I think what is missing is a full and adequate accounting of self interest.  Specifically, every American (Australian, Syrian, Brit, Frenchman, …) has a unique evaluation of the process.  Jefferson anticipated compromise and balance, and did not anticipate the conglomeration of self-interests into a few major threads. 


In an And/Or graph (e.g., IDEF0: http://www.englishlogickernel.com/Patent-7-209-923-B1.pdf figures 5 and 11A) if I use different heuristic valuation methods, I get distinctly different preferred solution subtrees.  Each person in any group has unique values, and therefore the emergent set of heuristics is plural in value systems.  With present systems, the projection of millions of value systems onto a two dimensional regulatory body loses the knowledge needed to solve everybody’s problem.  I think a valuation of each individual’s needs – the three hundred million US citizens, for example – is the missing ingredient of subjectivity, and without accounting for that massive divergence, we are doomed to average out the noise of individuals in seeking a single, choiceless, and history shows incompetent, solution to the single individual’s problems. 


We need to look at multiple value structures, not just logic, in how knowledge is represented, formulated, selected, interpreted and conveyed into social structures.  Economists like Milton Friedman, Somebody Hyek, Adam Smith and others taught that self interest and individual choice is what makes the free market work.  Governments are the least free of markets, presently structured, like ontologies, to represent only a single value structured solution to problems formulated by a few special interests, not by widespread representations of all citizens’ interests. 


It may be stretching an analogy to say that political graphs are like the current state of ontologies, but I do so anyway.  If anyone still reading this has a solution to that multiply valued, multiply choiced fantasy of mine, I would love to hear more.  But logic alone is simply misleading, and IMHO inappropriate, as a solution to problems of groups of people. 


Negotiation of individual transactions by individual choices and values is what makes the free market work, as well as it does or doesn’t, and I have not seen another system level method that even approaches the flexibility and evolving progress that so consistently follows free market expressions of self interest. 


Thanks for an interesting paper,




Rich Cooper


Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com

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


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