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Re: [ontolog-forum] Semantics of Natural Languages

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Rich Cooper" <rich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 31 Aug 2011 17:10:20 -0700
Message-id: <47EBADDD61DF42ACAFC3F7E497595EBC@Gateway>

Dear David,

Comments below,



Rich Cooper


Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com

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

-----Original Message-----
From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of David Eddy
Sent: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 2:34 PM
To: [ontolog-forum]
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Semantics of Natural Languages

Rich -

On 2011-08-31, at 4:30 PM, Rich Cooper wrote:

> Why DON'T huge hunks of deduced, induced, abduced

> and reduced knowledge suffice?  What is still

> lacking?  Why don't gobs of special purpose

> functionality, coupled with gobs of knowledge, do

> the trick?

    #1 - much of life isn't subject to mathematical logic (e.g. much of 

    business activity is highly illogical)

True; some AI luminaries called what business execs do "satisficing" instead of optimizing.  But businesses use risk models and SWOT analyses to determine their position in a market and relative risk positions.  But note that more and more of business activity is based on models and analysis of historical data.  For example, hedge funds are used to insure risky litigation in the patent industry so that the downside isn't as down as it used to be. 

    #2 - life (particularly as expressed with language) is a constantly moving target, based on a poorly defined "foundation."

Boy isn't that the truth!  We change our minds, our strategies, our knowledge bases and our results on a daily basis.  Over the long run, we often can't recognize our past experiences the change is so great. 

    I express this in the following context...

    A house can certainly be described as a "system" (or collection of systems... heating, plumbing, walls, electrical, etc.).  But once it's built it stays as a house ALWAYS.  It will never be a boat (unless you live in Vermont or upstate New York), an airplane or a car.

But houses sometimes get remodeled into business offices, and otherwise modified as the character of the location changes.  Still, most houses stay houses until razed, even though they get remodeled. 

    Information systems typically are poorly/ambiguously defined & constantly evolving.

    Plus the language used to describe information systems (software) is all over the place & very rarely formally expressed.

    Like it or not, believe it or not, Agile or not, most systems used in organizations go through some sort of systems development life cycle...

    1 - requirements

    2 - analysis

    3 - design

    4 - coding

    5 - implementation

    6 - maintenance

    At each one of these steps people with different views of the world, with different life experiences & with different use of language get to put their oar in the water.  Then you get to mix in professional 

    jealousies (requirements folks CERTAINLY do NOT speak/write/think the same language as programmers) & the dynamics of mergers & acquisitions.

True enough; each discipline has its own tribe of adherents (BA, SA, SE, Mgr …) and each has its own collective viewpoint about how things OUGHT to be; it is nearly always something another tribe is NOT doing, to that tribe's discomfort and hysteria.  The amazing thing is that ultimately MOST software developments are somewhat successful; otherwise they would stop getting funded by those satisficing business execs. 

    Personally I believe the good news is that the business thingys are not all that numerous.  I think there's some room to argue—definitely ARGUE—that organizations run on between 1500 & 6000 concepts.  But then it gets ugly since there are many, many, many synonyms for core concepts.  Remember my oft repeated: in 1980 a life insurance company found in its software systems 70 different names for the "policy number" concept.

True.  In my patent spec, I described how even the supposedly simple concept of a Boolean value can be represented in many different ways - 0/1, 1/2, T/F, Y/N, checkboxes, radio buttons …

But the 1500 to 6000 number still seems small to me, given the complexities of doing business in current regulatory and tax environments.  Calling an expenditure by the wrong category name can be very lossy if it doesn't get communicated purposefully to the tax accountant for depreciation, credits, etc. 

    I fully acknowledge that this is not something that will help translate Arabic to English & pluck shifting political sentiments out of the ether.

    BUT... it will help you modify your business applications faster & more accurately.

    Take your pick as to which is more practical & useful.

History (at least mine) shows that people look for ways to disagree on everything, and terminology is only one aspect of it.  BAs emphasize user experience more than correctness; SysEs emphasize architecture over contents; SEs emphasize design over purpose; Mgrs emphasize turf over profitability

Using the wrong word gets you into trouble in that environment, even if it is, in a minimal vocabulary, the correct concept.  Words have emotive force as well as communicative value. 


    David Eddy

But I would still like to find ways to shrink the diversity of terms; I just don’t think it will shrink to that small a number.  A thesaurus, by _expression_ instead of by word or concept, might be a better goal than a minimalist number of utterances. 




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