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Re: [ontolog-forum] Laws: physical and social

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Barkmeyer, Edward J" <edward.barkmeyer@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 3 Jun 2013 13:30:45 -0400
Message-id: <63955B982BF1854C96302E6A5908234417E0A93E84@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
John,    (01)

I believe that for making an ontology for a particular purpose, one can encode 
a great many 'facts', that are "taken to be true" for the purposes of reasoning 
with that ontology for that purpose.  Whether those 'facts' are true in the 
sense of conforming to "objective reality", if you believe there is such a 
thing, is an entirely different matter.  In particular, the knowledge engineer 
must make a separate judgment as to  such an ontology  is appropriate for some 
other purpose.    (02)

Some notes below.    (03)

> -----Original Message-----
> From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-
> bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of John F Sowa
> Sent: Sunday, June 02, 2013 8:12 AM
> To: '[ontolog-forum] '
> Subject: [ontolog-forum] Laws: physical and social
> In various notes to Ontolog Forum, I emphasized the importance of laws
> (both physical and social) as a foundation for ontology.  I won't go into all 
> details, but I'd like to make a few comments:
>   1. Laws of physics provide a more fundamental explanation of many
>      properties than the notions of "disposition" or "tendency".
>      Physicists, for example, would explain why glass is fragile
>      along the following lines:
>      "Look at the structure of the material and how the atoms and
>      molecules are linked to one another.  Given that structure
>      and the laws of quantum mechanics, you can predict that under
>      certain conditions, something made of steel will bend, and
>      something of the same shape but made of glass will break."    (04)

Actually, predicting physical properties of materials from their crystal 
structure did not really become viable until the late 1990s, when physicists 
finally learned enough about crystal structure, and even then, the theory only 
works for materials whose crystal structure is regular.  Many metal alloys, for 
example, have irregular crystal structures that depend on many (uncontrolled) 
variables in the formation of the alloy.  So, while this idea is appealing, 
physicists would be careful to say that they can accurately predict the stress 
resistance of certain glass structures and certain steels, but possibly not 
others.  There are several steels that will shatter at temperatures near 0 
degrees Kelvin, for example.  And the aircraft that hit the World Trade Center 
became a 500 knot "sandstorm" of aluminum particles in seconds.  So, your 
example "laws" could probably be used to draw appropriate conclusions for 
common building materials under typical usage conditions, but would be 
inappropriate for tornados or battlefield conditions.  This is the danger.    (05)

>   2. Many people have found the term 'disposition' to be useful in
>      defining terms in an ontology.  I have no objection to using
>      those terms to simplify an explanation.  But I would *not*
>      treat dispositions as fundamental.  The word 'disposition' is
>      just a shorthand way of saying that there exists a law that
>      makes a certain kind of prediction.
>     (06)

I fully agree, for what that is worth...    (07)

>   3. For the social sciences, the interactions are far more complex
>      than in physics.  But there are regularities that can be used to
>      make predictions that have a high probability of being correct.    (08)

Aye, and there's the rub.  You are now talking about Bayesian inferences, which 
is significantly different from "common logic" and what most of us think of as 
"ontologies".  Most of these social examples relate to "business rules", rather 
than "axioms".  A "business rule" can be "violated" (fail to hold), without 
creating an inconsistency in the knowledge base.  And some important uses of 
knowledge engineering are diagnostic -- the object is to detect anomalies in 
the sensed/measured environment that, whilst being taken as true, are still in 
violation of the "laws of conduct".  Drivers do veer across the centerline, and 
your 2013 Mercedes may be one of those that is engineered to take evasive 
action automatically when that happens.  I suspect you can find similar 
examples in forensic uses of ontology.    (09)

As I said, I don't disagree that you can make an ontology that assumes these 
rules as axioms, but you have to know that the assumption is not detrimental to 
the purpose of the ontology.    (010)

>      For example:
>      a) If you go to a store and pay the asking price for an item,
>         the sales clerk will take the money and give you the item.
>      b) If you drive on a highway and stay on the designated side
>         of the road, other drivers will stay on their side and
>         avoid hitting you or your car.
>      c) If you work for a company and repeatedly fail to do what
>         your manager asks you to do, you will be fired.
> For reasoning about social interactions, the laws aren't as strict as the 
>laws of
> physics, but game theory has proved to be useful.    (011)

Since about 1960, as I recall.  But game theory is a particular mathematical 
method based on the idea of optimizing a 'cost function', which is a pure 
abstraction on the same level as 'disposition'.    (012)

> Following is a survey article from the _Scientific American_:
> http://www.ped.fas.harvard.edu/people/faculty/publications_nowak/SciA
> m02.pdf
> The economics of fair play
> Following is an influential book on the subject:
>     Axelrod, Robert (1984) _The Evolution of Cooperation_,
>     New York: Basic Books. Revised edition, Perseus Books, 2006.
> It's significant that Richard Dawkins, who wrote the book _The Selfish Gene_,
> wrote a highly favorable forward to the revised edition of Axelrod's book.
> I'm happy to see that Dawkins endorses Axelrod's book, but I remain
> skeptical about the memes that Dawkins proposes.
> For more info about related issues, see Axelrod's home page:
>     http://www-personal.umich.edu/~axe/
> I followed some of those links to a review of Daniel Dennet's book, _Darwin's
> Dangerous Idea_ by H. Allen Orr:
>     http://bostonreview.net/BR21.3/Orr.html
>  From the concluding section of the review:
> > Although he has produced a provocative and intermittently entertaining
> > book, Dennett's chief claim is unconvincing.
> > Darwinism may have little to tell us outside of biology.
> I strongly agree with that last line.  I also agree with Orr's criticisms of
> Dennet's version of memes.
> In summary, I believe that laws of nature and social behavior are a better
> foundation for ontology than dispositions.  I would also recommend game
> theory as a useful methodology for reasoning about social behavior.    (013)

I agree with the first sentence, but with all the caveats above.  We have 
theories that are based on observations and that are accepted because they 
produce predictions that have been verified by experiment.  We can therefore 
take these theoretical characterizations to be 'true' laws of behavior, for the 
purpose of reasoning about a particular class of situations, as long as that 
assumption is not seriously harmful to our purposes when it proves to be an 
oversimplification.      (014)

I don't understand the relevance of game theory (or Bayesian inference) to 
"foundation for ontology".  Many different mathematical methods were developed 
as a means of reasoning about the world, by making models of the world that are 
fundamentally different from one another.  We have come to understand that some 
of them are very good models of natural phenomena, and lead to correct 
predictions of natural phenomena.  And others are excellent predictors of 
social phenomena, on some scale.  Game theory is one such mathematical method; 
formal inference is another.  A game theoretic model of a social interaction 
and an axiomatic model of a social interaction are radically different models.  
(The axiomatic model -- the "ontology" -- is the primary subject of this 
forum.)  If the game theoretic model does not have a 'saddle point', the 
optimal game theoretic solution is a mixed strategy:  When X happens, do Y 60% 
of the time, and do Z 40% of the time (randomly).  (That is how hedge funds 
work.)  Axiomatically, that reads, ifX then What?.  As I remember, one 
suggestion was IF X AND the second hand on your watch is 0-35, then Y.  If X 
and the second hand on your watch is beyond 35 then Z.  I don't deny that game 
theory has its place; I just wonder how it relates to "ontologies", as distinct 
from philosophical "disposition".    (015)

-Ed    (016)

> John
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