Dear Matthew, David and John,
It is really rather easy to create an ontology of names, what
they represent, and who uses them in what context.
The problem isn’t in ease of
creation, but in consistent use by multiple people. On this list, we have
consistently found that people vehemently disagree on the “proper”
way to model concepts with ontologies. Our history of finding agreement
indicates that it is very difficult to construct ontologies that many people
agree on. Only very, very simple things such as Dublin Core have found
By contrast, David’s example of the
policy number, which one would expect to be well understood within the
insurance business, by his stated experience, isn’t so well
understood. The problem is with the observers of any ontology; we don’t
all see the same meaning in a given rendering of concepts.
After a lot of thought, and from years of
discussion with well qualified people on this list, I have come to the
conclusion that ontology is simply one way of rendering reality.
Ontologies have not in general satisfied large groups of observers because
every observer has a unique, distinct, and very complex model of those simple concepts
which we throw around with variant lexicons.
The problem is that we don’t all
have the same experience. It is our individual differences in experience
that leads us to think in different sequences with different observations of
the same phenomenon. I don’t see how that problem can be solved by
monolithic ontological terms.
Instead, problem reduction methods such as
top down structured programming, and packaging methods such as object oriented
programming and client server architectures have made dramatically effective
inroads toward constructing large software systems that mostly work as
I suggest that ontologists should take the
same viewpoint because it has worked so well there. Instead of insisting
on a singular meaning, a singular ontology, a singular way of doing things, we
should be more open to pluralities of ontology as just another art form that is
juggled differently by each observer. In Chairman Mao Zedong’s
terms, let a million ontologies flourish.
Singular ontology just hasn’t worked
out and it looks like it never will.
Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com
9 4 9 \ 5 2 5 - 5 7 1 2
[mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Matthew West
Sent: Sunday, February 19, 2012
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] What goes into a Lexicon?
As always I revert to my favorite, oft-repeated
example... a life insurance company that found 70 different names for the core
business concept (term?) "policy number." In a business
environment where product lines are bought & sold, systems are custom built
by different teams & packages are bought, the reality is there will be many
(illogical) names for the same thingy.
MW: it all depends
what you build you ontology to do. If what you want it to do is allow you
to bring together lots of different names for the same thing, then there is no
particular difficulty in that. It’s just that ontologists don’t
tend to call those different names terms, but the common meaning they share.
You just have to get over that, and adopt the local usage and carry on. It is really
rather easy to create an ontology of names, what they represent, and who uses
them in what context.
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At one point I entertained delusions that ontologies
would help with this issue (one conceptual label = many physical labels).
Obviously I no longer hope in that direction.