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Re: [ontolog-forum] Self Interest Ontology

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Rich Cooper" <rich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2012 15:54:45 -0700
Message-id: <193952FCD866493AA4792641D7E7B028@Gateway>

Here is a second example on how self interest drives progress due to the number of people involved in the group.  Its an article on an economic theory that a patent owner can give away free licenses and still profit because it gives the patent owner more productivity to have a bunch of licensees with no royalties instead of just one with a paying license.  The article is at:




One humorous thing about this article is that there are links to the original material in Economics Letters.  But every path I tried led to a demand that I pay for the license to read it!  But lets leave that aside.


Several years ago on this list, someone mentioned a theory that patents cost more to industry than they provide in gains.  But that theory ignores the self interest of patent holder.  Economic theories seem to be often beset by ignoring the self interest of some group and claiming the deal (policy, regulation, constraint…) is in everybody’s interest somehow.  Actually, it is only in the interests by consensus of the group.  The parties left out of the conversation might or might not agree, weakly or strongly. 


Does anyone remember the article?


Googling about it I came across a real live ONTOLOGY which might even please ontologists.  Its here:


and its an ontology of patents.  It comprises a bunch of specialized area ontologies, all built on top of SUMO, (remember them?) which the article says is mapped onto WordNet. 


The part of the article of interest to ontologists is the following:

SUMO was selected as the core ontology because, it is open source, it provides single, pragmatic ontology for use in variety of applications and it is completely mapped onto the WordNet. SUMO high level concepts and properties provide the basis for the construction of the other ontology modules.

The Patent Upper Level Ontology – PULO provides patent specific concept configurations and terminology, acts as a bridge (midlevel ontology) between the high-level abstractions of SUMO and the low-level details of the other ontologies and includes all patent-specific concepts that are generic.

Patent Document Structure Ontology provides the structural composition of a patent document and comprises all concepts needed for a comprehensive description of a patent document structure. Patent Drawings Ontology models the figures of patent documents and Patents Metadata deals with the explicit metadata and implicit metadata.

Does anyone else find this useful information re patents? – We could start another thread on that heading if so.  But just ontologically speaking, its good to know that

1)     There are useful things built on SUMO and a plurality of derived, specialized ontologies all of which are apparently (?) successfully interchanging information somehow – I would assume its all type checked, so every type is unique and structured for traversal. 

2)     The Share-Your-Patent theory, like the Ridley video, could use this as a case study if the business information were available to us as to how the patent owner, if any, gained or lost by making it free.  Note: the website gives free access

3)     The http://mklab.iti.gr/project/patexpert link lets you download the ontology (I suppose its for free) but it comes as a .rar file which I haven’t been able to convert to something civilized yet.  If anyone has a more interpretable format, please advise. 


This illustrates self interest as just a business tradeoff decision – do the math and pick the best choice.  There is no spectrum of motives mentioned which might be involved beyond cold hard math that insists on a precise answer.  How motivated is the agent, and how well does the task pay off for other simultaneous goals?  How do the simultaneous goals in the spectrum get affected by the change?  How can the various agents and their various motives be tracked conceptually? 


It should be clear that people do this acting in their self interest.  Even something as simple as a chess game involves strategies when the options are many and equal, tactics when the options are few and widely evaluated.  But in language, as reflected thoughts, how would we represent our world if not by our native language.  In my case that was English.  So that is what I will use. 


Those should be some initial concepts for the Self Interest Ontology:










Does anyone else want to suggest or edit these very rough concepts?


Since I have a motive to implement in IDEF0, I would like to represent the ICOM objects as instances derived from the one object class.  In that notation, an object is very much like a variable symbol in that it can take on any of the other concepts above, including action, and even itself – object .  That literally means that any object can be a representation of other objects leading to unconstrained expressiveness. 


IDEF0 has successfully represented every model of actions and work flows, so I will use that knowing at least that there is a history of successful use by potential consumers. 


Consumers have a motive to buy.  That is why they are the target audience to be inspected, measured, predicted and even modeled to get more knowledge of their present and alternative future actions and contexts.  So consumers could be a plurality of agents under the ontology context.  But then they would have to be called consumers.  The point is that every self interest can be modeled, IMHO, within that minimalist framework of the above ontology.  If you can suggest an example self interest that you think can’t be modeled that way, please bring it up so we can look at it. 


Suggestions, Corrections, Comments welcomed,




Rich Cooper


Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com

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

From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Rich Cooper
Sent: Saturday, April 07, 2012 9:20 AM
To: '[ontolog-forum] '
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Self Interest Ontology


Dear John,


You found the video, but missed the article.  It really is at the (truncated looking) URL which appears prematurely cut off below:




I have changed this email format to HTML for this post.  You may have more luck following the link with this format instead of rich text as in the previous post. 


Your YouTube link didn’t have the text around the video which draws the point.  For example, the text includes this quote:


Tierney and Ridley also discuss how traders and businessmen, much maligned throughout history as exploiters and "social parasites," have actually contributed enormously to the spread of ideas and new technological breakthroughs. Ridley describes how Fibonacci, the son of an Italian trader who lived in North Africa, brought the Indian numeral system (the numbers we all know and love today) to Europe as one of the greatest tangible benefits of trade facilitating the exchange of ideas. Ridley implores the public to "Just stop knocking traders, they're great people, they do wonderful things."


I think the point he makes is that some minimum density of intellectual population is necessary to raise the rate of innovation, and that is influenced by, among other things, cultural (such as religious) openness to new ideas and improvements.  But even with an open, nondogmatic society, there is still a minimum number of people needed to make the society grow intellectually, rather than shrink, as the Tanzanians did with just 4,000 population when their island was cut off from the Australian mainland. 


Ridley, ever a good book marketer, sensationalizes it by describing it as “ideas having sex”.  That is the point of the article; people build their own ideas on top of each other’s ideas, modulate them, apply them to new situations, and generally generalize and specialize other people’s ideas.  The rate at which people do so varies as the number of people (and therefore the number of ideas) available to intellectual discourse, with Tanzania’s 4,000 being too low, and Greece’s population being adequate. 


It isn’t surprising to hear that most Greek philosophers of classical times came from outside Athens – thanks for sharing that.  Greece itself was more likely the population which interchanged ideas.  Athens was just the New York of Greece.  Athens was just the civilization that “published” papyri of the good ideas, chose which ideas to teach each new generation, provided the cross roads for accumulated commerce and trade, and valued knowledge sociologically.  Look at what happened to Athens – wars with its neighbors, poisoning of Aristotle, many other degenerate social warps occurred there.  The Athenians practiced a government like that description Ronald Reagan gave: “Government is like a baby.  A hungry alimentary canal at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.”


The point of the article, as I see it, is that individuals following self interest are the originators of knowledge, sharers of knowledge, and the source of social progress.  Grouping people into political units (such as religious movements, democracies, socialist states, dictatorships, pick your favorite or most reviled instance) is what turns the groups ultimately toward the dark side. 


So I disagree on the subject of the email.  I changed it back to my original “Self Interest Ontology” because I think you missed the points I was trying to make with regard to how knowledge is formed.  It isn’t from the sole source of genius as you seem to believe.  Ridley’s material shows that the important factor is the size of the group which can share knowledge and produce new material from combinations of old materials.  All of the people in Ridley’s groups are acting in self interest. 


He identifies “traders” as the multiculturalists who moved knowledge from one culture (e.g., Arabic/Indian numerals) to another (e.g., classical Western civilizations) and therefore did the intellectual and pragmatic pollination of societies. 


The point is: If we could codify self interest in ontological form, we could possibly leverage that ontology to automate the creation of new knowledge.  That was (decades ago) Cyc’s ultimate goal, but Cyc took the wrong turn of trying to make a single monolithic knowledge base that knows everything they could encode.  They discarded the self interest of the individuals’ knowledge bases, and insisted on a single monolithic knowledge base which required unreasonable degrees of consistency, throwing out the variance which would have led to automating knowledge creation.  They chose to value the group’s knowledge instead of the individuals’ knowledges. 


That, IMHO, is the wrong conclusion.  Instead, each Cyclist should have developed an ontology of her own.  Then the sharing of those individual ontologies could have been automated (if only partially) to create new knowledge from combinations of individual’s knowledge as encoded in Cyc.  That is why self interest is important, and that is why I have changed the subject back to its proper title. 





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 John F Sowa
Sent: Friday, April 06, 2012 11:13 PM
To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [ontolog-forum] Promoting invention and innovation




Thanks for pointing out that interview.  It is indeed thought

provoking. (For two footnotes about procedural issues, see below.)


> I found a terrific video interview with biologist Matt Ridley

> (one of my favorite pop biology authors) which explains some

> of the phenomenon in self interested activities.  Basically,

> his idea is that progress depends far more on the NUMBER of

> individuals in a group exchanging ideas than it does on any

> one GENIUS, or other appellation you might want to use to

> describe individuals who provide outlier services.


Following is an uncorrupted URL of the video:




Some comments about Matt Ridley's talk:


  1. I strongly agree with him that innovation depends on having

     a sufficiently large population of people and a considerable

     amount of interchange among people from different cultures.


  2. Merchants traveling from town to town, port to port, or

     country to country are important.  But the traveling or

     trade, by itself, is only part of the story.  You also need

     travelers who do the innovating -- gurus, storytellers,

     explorers, adventurers, and people who have enough technical

     knowledge to recognize a good innovation when they see one.


  3. Ridley also mentioned the Arabs, who adapted, adopted, and

     transmitted many innovations from many cultures -- Greece,

     India, Africa, etc.  But he said that they stagnated because

     of "superstition".  That is too simplistic.


  4. Many scholars praise the Greeks for their fantastic innovations

     in philosophy, mathematics, logic, science, democracy, etc.

     But they don't emphasize one very important point:  *all* of

     the early Greek philosophers came from the colonies outside

     of Greece, not from Athens or other cities in the heartland.


  5. In fact, the first so-called "pre-Socratic" philosophers came

     from the Greek colonies in Anatolia, which were under the

     control of Persia at the time (6th century BC).  That was also

     close to the Silk Road, which brought merchants, soldiers, and

     storytellers from China to and from Europe.


  6. The philosophers from Anatolia include Thales, Anaximander,

     Anaximenes, Pythagoras, Xenophanes, and Heraclitus.  Pythagoras

     left his native island of Samos and traveled to Egypt, where

     he was initiated into the Egyptian priesthood.  He later

     settled in the Greek colony of Croton in southern Italy.

     (By the way, I live in Croton on Hudson, New York.)

     Other early Greek philosophers from the colonies in Italy

     include Parmenides, Zeno, Empedocles (who proposed the

     four elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth).  Others

     came from miscellaneous Greek towns on the periphery.


  7. The first major Greek philosopher who was born in and

     stayed in Athens was Socrates.  It is significant that

     he was condemned to death for corrupting the morals of

     Athenian youth.  The philosophers from the colonies

     said many worse things about the Olympian gods, but they

     got away with it because the Persians and others couldn't

     care less about the Greek gods.  But the Athenians did.


There is much more to be said about all these issues, but one

point stands out:  the fundamentalists in every country and

every culture around the world are the ones that cause the

most stifling kind of stagnation.  That was true of the

Greeks in ancient times, and it is true of *every* religion

everywhere in the world.  (I won't name any modern ones,

because that would create endless debate.)


I'm not against all religions, by the way, when they are

taken in moderation.  But when any religion becomes frozen

as dogma, the culture goes downhill rapidly.


And by religion, I include Marxism and Capitalism. I would

even consider an uncritical idolization of Science as a

religion.  All of them have some good ideas, if taken in

moderation. But their fundamentalists are the most dangerous

threats to their own countries.







  1. The long URL you cited was cut off by your email handler.

     I had to do a bit of searching to find the above URL,

     but I suggest that you get a better email handler or

     change some settings on the one you use.


  2. I also changed the subject line to indicate the main topic

     of Ridley's talk.  It is tangentially related to self interest,

     but the main theme is the kinds of factors that promote or kill

     invention and innovation.



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