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[ontolog-forum] Formal or functional specifications

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:34:05 -0400
Message-id: <535153FD.4040309@xxxxxxxxxxx>
I sent the following reply to a discussion on the ontology summit list,
but the issues are critical for any ontology.    (01)

-------- Original Message --------
Subject:  Shareable versus reusable, or shared and reusable    (02)

Overly precise specifications can block interoperability and reuse
in engineering, medicine, and other fields.  Engineers complain that
computerized tools can make functional replacements more difficult.
They can also be a deterrent to innovation.    (03)

For many purposes, a simple list can be hard to improve:    (04)

     Toast, muffin, croissant, or daily special    (05)

As another example, the shift away from incandescent light bulbs has
drawn attention to functional requirements that nobody imagined.    (06)

Reducing heat is good.  But LED traffic lights don't generate enough
heat in winter to melt snow and ice.  An incandescent bulb gets hot,
but it tolerates heat in an enclosed space.  The number of unexpected
consequences -- both good and bad -- is open-ended.    (07)

Sometimes, the exact spec is critical, and a repair that seems to
be a functional replacement can create a disaster.  But patients have
died because a physician did not know that another option was possible.    (08)

For humorous examples, google "redneck repairs".  But the questions
are serious:  Is form or function more important?  How much precision
is appropriate?  What tradeoffs are possible, desirable, or dangerous?    (09)

John    (010)

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