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[ontolog-forum] Some Grand Challenge proposal ironies

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Christopher Spottiswoode" <cms@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 21 Oct 2011 20:37:08 +0200
Message-id: <AA3A29C7364A4BA2B3D7387722F437EC@klaptop>
All,    (01)

Here are the first questions I imagined as your very valid responses to
my post introducing the notion of "Ontology Chemistry" as the basis of a
Grand Challenge that I am asserting will revolutionize Software
Engineering (SE).  (That post is now archived at
http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/2011-10/msg00088.html .)    (02)

Q1:  On the wiki at
http://ontolog.cim3.net/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?OntologySummit/Suggestions the
target you propose for a Grand Challenge is a bootstrap for an intended
new ecosystem.  Presumably that involves producing a programmed product?    (03)

A:  Yes indeed, that's the basic starter platform.  It's that initial or
seed "Application Operating System" (or AOS) I've already introduced on
this forum at odd times.    (04)

Q2:  But why make a Grand Challenge of what is normally an in-house
product development?  (It even seems to have started out as one?)    (05)

A:  (Yes it did, and I've already done some significant C coding for it
in a win32 environment.)  The Challenge answer starts on slide 21 of the
X Prize presentation referred to on the Ontolog page you've just cited.
These are the first questions for anyone trying to design a Grand
Challenge:    (06)

> Have you targeted a problem where a market failure exists?
> Where the normal forces of capitalism will not solve the problem?
> Does your prize address the underlying market failure?    (07)

Q3:  So the "market failure" you're addressing here is your own?    (08)

A:  Though you realize that's not really what they had in mind, yes,
that is partly the case.  Sure.  But my failure so far has not been in
the conception of the product or its market.  (Far from it!  To a
remarkable degree there has for several decades been an ever greater
convergence of many current trends with the course I've long been
embarked on.)  No, my failure has primarily been in not having been able
to sell the still productless idea to colleagues as possible
collaborators, despite having tried on the web from time to time since
1996.    (09)

But that failure is for quite objective reasons too. Anybody can relate
to the suggestion that one notion can be said to underlie the need side
of the universal market I claim to be addressing:  complexity.
Complexity and our continual disasters as we fail to handle it
appropriately.  Surely we can better broach and deal with the given
complexity of reality?  There's no need to wax all philosophical about
it either, because it's commonly a very real and pressing problem in our
everyday social and individual lives, as it is in our SE domain.
"Complexity" was even the title of Chapter 1 of the 1994 book, Object
Oriented Analysis and Design with Applications, by Grady Booch of the
Three Amigos behind UML.  But naming the problem is not solving it.    (010)

So it is probably rather misguidedly that I have long tried to describe
the objective of the proposed product as "to help people simplify
complexity together".   Depending on whom I'm talking to, it has
unfailingly fallen flat and - I imagine - been generally dismissed as 
either useless cliché or abstract mystification.    (011)

In such ways I have been trying rather ham-handedly for some years to
find others to join in on the project. But after all it's no surprise:
that elephant seems so gigantic, the basic reality is so horrendous, so
any project facing up to it has to be deemed incredible, tantamount to
"boiling the ocean", probably delusional, and at least "impractical for
us".  Lesser obstacles have been NIH, and my still too idiosyncratic
depictions of the concept and project.    (012)

More interestingly, there's also a rather fundamental and inescapable
bug in the whole notion (though we'll be accepting it as an important
feature of the proposed new scene too): evolution in general
suboptimizes with merely stepwise improvements.  And here I am,
proposing that we try to leap that canyon?    (013)

Q4:  So the idea of a Grand Challenge is to dare to leap the Grand
Canyon?    (014)

You could put it that way.    (015)

Q5.  But then surely it is indeed delusional to try?    (016)

It would seem so.  So my next posts will be immeasurably more positive.
The "phenomenon of knowledge" throughout our past shows us how we might
in future more confidently and appropriately grasp the nettle of
complexity.    (017)

Widespread present SE market failures also provide useful perspectives,
as well as opportunities for leapfrogging many serious obstacles in the
present Internet-based SE ecosystems.    (018)

All that background will be handy for an enumeration of many possible
arguments to use when approaching potential funders.    (019)

Then with such bogeymen less feared, we can start getting down to the
relevant detail of the proposed new architecture and AOS.  More detailed
and appealing outlines of the suggested Grand Challenge will emerge.    (020)

Christopher    (021)

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