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Re: [ontac-forum] ISO 15926 and BFO

To: ONTAC-WG General Discussion <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 26 Nov 2005 10:37:23 -0500
Message-id: <43888133.7030601@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Matthew and Barry,    (01)

For any of us who have been involved with SUO,
this discussion of ISO 15926 and BFO looks like
deja vu all over again.    (02)

Anybody who has invested many person years of effort
in developing and using an ontology has no intention
of abandoning it in favor of any other that may be
proposed as a standard.    (03)

Cyc has been in development for over 21 years, and
it has a large number of users.  Furthermore, they
have contributed OpenCyc as a large subset that has
attracted many more users.  There are also projects
like SUMO and others, which also have invested many
person years of effort.    (04)

The developers and the users of these projects are
not going to abandon their projects and switch to
anything new except under extreme duress.  Yet these
same people have an enormous amount of valuable
experience.  Without their active participation,
any new project would be very much impoverished,
and it would just appear to be a YACO (Yet Another
Competing Ontology).    (05)

Yet there is one very bright light on the horizon,
which nobody has considered a competitor:  WordNet.
The developers of Cyc, SUMO, and many others have
ignored the WordNet upper levels, and they have
made the effort of demonstrating that the categories
of their ontologies can be aligned with the synsets
of WordNet.    (06)

That is why I proposed a unified framework that would
be very similar to a cleaned up WordNet:  very few
axioms, no upper level of any kind, and most importantly
*neutral* with respect to any and every major ontology
that has been under development.  By neutral with respect
to any ontology X, I mean the following:    (07)

  1. Little or no adjustment required.  Some alignment,
     similar to the work done to align Cyc and SUMO with
     WordNet, may be necessary.    (08)

  2. But after that alignment has been performed,  any subset
     of UF could be imported into X without causing any
     inconsistency with any of the axioms already in X.    (09)

  3. Points #1 and #2 imply that the axioms of UF cannot
     be very detailed.  In particular, it cannot have much,
     if any, of an upper level.  It will be and must be
     *impossible* to do detailed reasoning about any
     major topic using only the UF axioms by themselves.    (010)

In short, UF would be very rich in categories, but very
poor in axioms, other than saying A is a subtype of B, an
instance of B, or a part of B (and perhaps a few others).
The axiom that type-subtype is transitive would be in UF,
but there would be no commitment to an saying that part-whole
would or would not be transitive.    (011)

Barry suggested that BFO be used as a basis for UF.
That may be OK, provided that none of the developers
of any of the other major projects feel threatened.
In other words, any axioms in BFO that conflict with
Cyc, SUMO, ISO 15926 or any other major project must
be omitted from UF.    (012)

That requirement does not imply that anybody's pet
axioms will be thrown away.  BFO would still have all
the axioms it started with, and it would have the
advantage of already being totally aligned with UF.    (013)

Anybody who wanted to use the BFO axioms to do any
reasoning would not use UF alone.  Instead, they
would use BFO+UF.  Similarly, people could use Cyc+UF,
SUMO+UF, or ISO15926+UF without making their previous
applications obsolete.    (014)

That is neutrality:  all exiting ontologies would be
on an equal footing, and nobody who has an application
that uses any of them would have to make any major
adjustments (other than some renaming, if necessary)
in order to add any or all of UF to their system.    (015)

I also want to emphasize that developing UF would be
a first step, and it would not preclude other projects
that would develop much more detailed modules or
microtheories for reasoning at any or all levels of
the ontology from top to bottom.  But those projects
should be kept separate and optional, not required for
the use of UF by systems that have different axioms.    (016)

John Sowa    (017)

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