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Re: [ontac-forum] Semantic Interoperability: Sowa's Collection ofModules

To: ONTAC-WG General Discussion <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 25 Nov 2005 02:21:41 -0500
Message-id: <4386BB85.8030004@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cory,    (01)

I'd like to emphasize that my proposal is completely
compatible with a very precise specification.    (02)

 > I would like to follow up on the precision line
 > of thought.  As one who generally likes precision
 > (or at least more than most), I have to admit to
 > not having achieve it to the extent that would be
 > required to some of the goals attributed to Ontologies.    (03)

What I am recommending is that the general-purpose
framework avoid *detail*.  Everything that is represented
would be precise, but would omit a lot of detail.    (04)

 > In general, compatibility between systems is achieved
 > with interaction, negotiation and sometimes mutual adaptation.
 > Expecting that a set of specifications are going to be
 > sufficiently precise, detailed, sufficient and contextual
 > to allow for autonomous adaptation is hard to accept.    (05)

I agree.  And for *some* applications all the detail is
essential.  I don't recommend that it be thrown away.    (06)

What I do recommend is that the general ontology contain only
a precise definition of the minimal assumptions that are
commonly accepted for the various categories.  That policy
permits anyone to add as much detail as they like.  But
it would also allow anyone with any specialized need to
add idiosyncratic axioms that nobody else would agree to.
All of the perspectives would agree on the minimal common
content, but they could diverge on the details.    (07)

Instead of saying it is vague or imprecise, it would be more
accurate to say that I am recommending an *underspecified*
general ontology, which could be specialized in different
ways for different purposes.    (08)

 > For example, if a set of interfaces were mapped to something
 > like wordnet, it is easy to see how tools would help the
 > human make connections between interfaces by matching
 > the concepts.  If it were correct 75% of the time - that
 > would be a big win!    (09)

What I am suggesting is something like a corrected WordNet --
i.e., with a more accurate and consistent treatment of the
type-subtype, type-instance, and whole-part relations.
It would be 100% correct *all the time* for what it says,
but it would not make any commitment on any controversial
issue.    (010)

 > ...  as well as the capability to "ground" domain concepts
 > in ONE OR MORE "hubs", like wordnet or even Cyc.    (011)

Instead of calling it a "hub", I would call it a framework.
It would provide a placeholder for all the terminology or
vocabulary that anyone might want to add to it.  It could
in fact become as big (in terms of number of entries) as
the OED together with the union of all the specialized
vocabularies anyone would like to add.    (012)

But I want to emphasize that this framework would be much
less detailed in its axiomatization than Cyc.  It would
be more like a precisely defined and corrected WordNet
extended with many additional vocabularies.    (013)

As a precise, bu underspecified framework, it would be equally
suitable for a 3-dimensional view of space with a separate time
dimension or for a 4-dimensional view of space-time.  It would
be equally suitable for an Aristotelian view of substance or
a Whiteheadian view of process.  It could be combined with a
commonsense ontology or with any of the latest results of
modern physics.  You could use it with situation calculus or
with pi calculus, as you prefer.  It would be completely
neutral with regard to any of these options.    (014)

Many of us had been participating in the SUO (Standard Upper
Ontology) project for over five years, and we never made any
progress in resolving these controversies.  If we insist on
producing a hub, or an upper level, or whatever you want to
call it, that takes one position or the other on any of these
controversies, we'll go on for another five years without
reaching a consensus.    (015)

Therefore, I recommend that we exclude from the framework any
axiom or assumption that is in any way controversial.  It would
be very precise for what it says -- much more so than WordNet --
but underspecified.  As a framework, it would provide placeholders
for adding whatever specialized microtheories anyone would care
to add.  Those microtheories could be added at any level from
top to bottom or in the middle.    (016)

With such a framework, we could make progress.  Without it, we
could end up with another five years of wrangling over subtle
principles, theories, and distinctions of physics, philosophy,
linguistics, and semiotics -- as we have seen with the SUO project.    (017)

John Sowa    (018)

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