Responding to Todd's request and considering
the several messages posted meanwhile this message gives a summary of what I
and a few others are striving to do, our presumptions about the benefit of
ontologies toward that end and some of the properties and characteristics that
would be important about any ontology.
Caveat Emptor. I focus on making things work,
mostly things that people say can’t be done, the larger and more complex the
better, fun-wise. However, my notion of ontology may not square with current
accepted practice so feel free to calibrate me as needed.
One objective is ‘enabling interoperability
among systemists.’ Systemists ‘engage in knowledge exchange and choice making
regarding the conceptualization, realization, utilization and evolution of
systems.’ Interoperability entails bridging respective languages, mental
models, interpersonal styles and values as individually favored by the
estimated 1 million systemists world wide.
We presume that Interoperability is not likely
to be achieved by standardization of these factors. Instead we seek a unifying
framework that will support the context-sensitive formulation of such bridges
as necessary and a transformation engine that can assemble semantic modules to
compose the actual bridge in a given situation. Once the languages bridge is
established construction of the mental models, styles and values bridges can
We intend to unify the ontic view and the
transaction or flow view of systems and dissolve the differences that now
prevail among those focused on natural vs. man-perceived vs. man-devised kinds
In systems work the most important but
unfortunately least honored aspects are System Progress Properties and System
Integrity Properties. Ontology developers should ensure these are expressed.
Otherwise people get into big trouble pursuing the chimera of Reuse. Just
because something is reusable does not mean it will be reuseful.
Our approach is to craft concept maps, c.f.,
Learning, Creating and Using Knowledge by Prof. Joseph Novak, 2nd
Edition, until we achieve a reasonable degree of mutual understanding about the
vocabularies and bridges then work with ontology builders to create well formed
bridges and bridge-composing engines
We envision this capability being used wherever
humans engage in knowledge exchange and choice making such as in designing
systems, co-learning for avoiding tragedy of the commons, avoiding unintended
consequences, cleansing a body of laws, helping leaders know what is not
happening, helping everyone detect the ‘parts of they know that ain’t so,’ etc.
Because the things that comprise a system can
be both operators and operands and even change roles (perspective shift) we
have encountered the confusion of the ontic/existence view vs. the transaction/flow
view of operation, the latter generally harbored by engineers and programmers. For
example, a well known problem in industry is the battle between the engineering
Bill of Materials and the manufacturing Assembly or Routings view. Today, when
engineers engage in ontic analysis they inevitably clutter up the picture with
Is an ontology in the form of a human artifact
simply the minutes of a system design session? This is concerned with the
content and structure of the ontology, not the format and style of the
Does an ontology include every element,
interrelationship and behavior of a thing? If so, a) can an ontology be seen as
a nascent system and b) can an executable ontology evidence behavior?
Is Fit for Purpose equivalent to Guarino’s ‘making
the intended meaning of a vocabulary explicit’ or a larger purpose, ‘revealing
the similarities and differences between two vocabularies?’
When it comes to citing Best Practices should
there be justification of ‘best?’
Why not cite Worst practices? These lead to
faster learning than entraining lemmings with best practices.
Is not an ontology a model of X? Does George
Box’s caution, ‘All models are wrong, some are useful’ bear repeating?
Regarding Warfield’s warning that as a system
(ontology?) gets larger and more complex its users experience cognitive
overload usually resulting in underconceptualization. The over- and underspecialization
concern is secondary.
FWIW, I echo David Price's note regarding the possible lack of industrial experience in this group.