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Re: [ontolog-forum] LInked Data meme revisited

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Rich Cooper" <rich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2013 17:49:53 -0800
Message-id: <E94B49B4C2C34CA8B0A8DD3912371D1F@Gateway>

Dear John Black et al,


Comments below,




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 John Black
Sent: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 4:29 PM
To: [ontolog-forum]
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] LInked Data meme revisited



Hans, John, Rich,


Recently I asserted that the sense of a word is an affordance resulting from the execution of a process.


That is a much underspecified specification!  What process are you not naming, not defining, that relates to “the sense of a word”?  Is said process an instance of the class Process?  That is a dangling reference into no meaning. 


Furthermore, I asserted that it was common knowledge of that process that allowed for communication with a term to exist. But now I see that common knowledge is not what is required.


So far we agree; it is NOT common knowledge.  But there are other possible explanations or causes as well.  Suppose two communicating people share one single word in common.  That means the word is a “signal” if I understand Peircean descriptions and is noticed by each person.  That does NOT mean it is the SAME signal to each participant. 


Each person has a different perceptive spectrum of sensations, and perceives the signal as a completely different concept than the other person perceives.  So to begin with, the signaling word is perceived differently by each.   


Then each person starts an action that she has previously executed in similar situations.  But remember that each individual, with some probability, takes a different action from among the spectrum of action choices available to each person from her individual database – not a SHARED database because of the different history of experiences among the participants. 


They each have INDIVIDUAL belief systems, controlled by prior experimental learning histories, crossed against INDIVIDUAL value systems, which by first principles describes the parties to the communication. 


In fact, since it implies some sort of representation, which I want to replace entirely by process, it falls into the very error I am trying to avoid.  Instead, I should have asserted that it is the shared ownership of a common process, combined with shared inputs to that process, among a set of agents, that affords the utility of a term, word or URI. 



Your points are further underscored by the issue
of context


If the sense of a term, word or URI is some utility afforded by a process, then there is no need for appeal to "context".  


What do you mean “some utility afforded by a process”?  Is it the same process that you referred to in your sentence above which contains:


“the sense of a word is an affordance resulting from the execution of a process”


I am unable to perceive a process, or how it relates to “the sense of a word (as) an affordance”.  I understand that an affordance is a situation in which a process can begin an action, which I take to be one step in said process.  How does this process step relate to the context of the enclosed system environment.  How can you ignore the collection of all variables and actions within the context, but not see that as a “context”?


Instead, the process of making sense of a term needs only to be able to accept inputs in addition to the term itself.  Different values for those inputs afford different results, the same inputs gets the same results, that's all. No context is required.


Whoa!  You are assuming that said “process” is deterministic.  You are also assuming a static process, which always produces the same outputs for the same inputs.  But that implies that the state of the process is constant, and in that case, I would not call it a “process” in any case.  It can’t be that simple if it produces words as output which collections of people share. 


When a group of agents shares ownership of both the process and the inputs to that process for making sense of a term, then all members of the group are afforded a greater utility.


Those agents must be software agents, because the human beings I have worked with are unable to reach such unanimity.  My experience in the software development world makes me predict that the agents would have inconsistent and incompatible goals, make designs and prototypes that demonstrate the inconsistencies and incompatibilities.  Building a large software system is an exercise in crowd control, not in logic and abstractions. 


It is an example of the network effect. I like to think of a trending hashtag on Twitter. These have virtually no syntax, just the semantics that results from the shared process of making sense of it given the inputs available to all. 



Of course, this is all very frustrating to people
who want universal
interoperability and understandability - that
"universal business language
translator" mentioned somewhat tongue-in-cheek(ly)
in a classic commercial


What is remarkable, in my opinion, is how effective languages are, be they natural, formal or some hybrid.


Agreed.  It seems to be the defining capability of humans to intercommunicate in tedious, time consuming negotiations leading to each participant changing state in small ways to match the environment around her.  Ultimately, that domestication of human tribes has led us to this highly practiced ability to communicate at a higher level than any other creature we know of. 


The difficulty of reaching perfection is dwarfed by the ubiquity of the utility afforded by languages.  


Yes, it’s more of that cut-and-fit process until you get a satisfactory threshold.  And just what is a “satisfactory” threshold is also UNIQUE to each INDIVIDUAL. 


And I personally am very optimistic about creating machines that can share in the utility afforded to those communities surrounding common terms - when once we learn how to simulate the processes and inputs to those processes that humans use to make sense of terms. 


Me too, but I expect it to be slow, tedious, filled with partial steps and setbacks, until it gets the affordance from users to hit “start”. 



The idea of using precise symbols and terminology
in science and in
programming languages is useful -- but only for a
very narrow application.

The reason why natural languages are so flexible
is that a finite vocabulary
can be adapted to an infinite range of
applications.  That implies that it's
impossible (and undesirable) to force words to be
used with fixed and frozen


I don't think it will be feasible in the next

decade to find a

universal dictionary.

I would revise that point in the following way:

   It will *never* be possible or desirable to
have a fixed dictionary
   of precisely defined word senses for any
natural language.


I would dispute that there is much difference between the difficulties and utility of natural vs scientific or programming languages.  And I certainly hope you are not implying that it is possible to have fixed representations, definitions or precisely defined word senses of symbols in scientific and programming languages. I don't think it is any more than with natural languages. But instead, here again, it is the shared ownership of a process, and inputs to that process, that afford us the utilities of formal languages as well.  In other words, it is not how rigidly that the sense is somehow defined or represented, but how consistently the process and the inputs to it are shared amongst agents, which affords formal terms a more consistent utility. 


Or so it seems to me.


John Black


Thanks for you thoughts. 


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