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Re: [ontolog-forum] Prospects made into Customers and Vice Versa

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 25 Oct 2015 11:21:08 -0400
Message-id: <562CF364.5070708@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Tom, Rich, Hans, and David,    (01)

I agree with your general goals and principles.  But in practice,
they include a large amount of wishful thinking.    (02)

> ontologies can ... tell us when two identical names are homonyms
> and, conversely, when two different names are synonyms.    (03)

More precisely, they are as useful as a good dictionary for that
purpose.  Unlike dictionaries, many ontologies are normative, not
descriptive.  But norms are frequently violated.    (04)

> So a simple, consistent set of definitions would likely cause
> disaster in many applications.    (05)

My only change would be to replace the word 'simple' with 'large'.
Some small simple sets are innocuous.  (But there are no simple
definitions for the words 'small' and 'simple'.)    (06)

> One of the purposes of the NCOIC SCOPE model is to help people
> explore, enumerate, and understand these scope differences among
> data bases and systems, and develop any scope representations that
> will be used to resolve these questions in operational software.    (07)

That's an excellent goal.  I'm sure that it would be useful.  But
even if a universal version were widely adopted, it would always need
to be revised and updated.  And you would be back to version control
and the need to accommodate legacy systems *and* future systems
*and* all the discoveries and inventions that weren't anticipated.    (08)

> For many Semantic Web developers, a key characteristic of a “Class”
> is that their definition does not change. If a change is required
> with different membership is the desired outcome, then another Class
> is created that is a superclass of Customer, subclass of Customer
> or overlaps with Customer.    (09)

The second word above is 'many'.  How many?  Do you have statistics
on the number of implemented and deployed systems that observe that
principle consistently?  Schema.org does not observe that principle.
Which conventions are more widely used?    (010)

Note that no branch of science or engineering ever changes its
terminology as new variations are discovered or invented.  This
point is true of the most precise sciences -- mathematics since
Euclid and physics since Newton.  Definitions change, words don't.    (011)

Also note that *every* large computer system has periodic revisions
-- e.g., every Tuesday for Microsoft Windows.  Every change causes
some *precise* definitions to change -- but there is no manual that
states the definitions to that level of precision.  The great majority
of terms adopted for DOS 1.0 are still used in Windows 10.  Microsoft
used to publish manuals, but few people read them.    (012)

IBM had a convenient term for software for which the definitions
would never change: 'functionally stabilized'.  That was a euphemism
for obsolete.    (013)

A computer system can keep track of multiple distinct definitions
for any term.  But no human being can.  All of our computer systems
are designed and/or used by humans.  Those people can read and use
the informal definitions of Schema.org.    (014)

But if a term has multiple formal variants, it's difficult or
impossible to know which, if any, of those variants a human designer,
implementer, or user intended.  When professional annotators mark up
a text with precise IRIs, their error rate is high -- and the greater
the number of formal variants, the greater the number of errors.    (015)

John    (016)

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