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

To: ONTAC-WG General Discussion <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: deddy@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 26 Nov 2005 23:20:46 -0500
Message-id: <4389341E.6020608@xxxxxxxxxxx>
David,    (01)

Controlled vocabularies have proved to be extremely
valuable for many purposes, and they come very close
to being specialized ontologies for a particular domain.
So I would certainly support an approach along the
following lines:    (02)

 > Would it be possible to consider something WordNet-like,
 > but rather than containing some 120,000+ words (& steadily
 > expanding at a rapid pace), have JUST the language &
 > concepts relevant to a particular application.
 > I've had some exposure to a sizable company with a
 > controlled vocabulary list of a mere 1500 "terms"...
 > two full orders of magnitude smaller than WordNet.    (03)

However, there is also a need to build bridges between
different domains.  For example, there has been a great
deal of work on standardized nomenclatures for medicine.    (04)

But medicine is such a large, complex field that it becomes
very difficult to limit the domain.  An important part of
the vocabulary is devoted to the anatomy of the human body,
but as you get to smaller and smaller parts, you get into
microbiology, which leads to issues of metabolism and all
the biochemical reactions, which lead to drugs and how
they relate to the biochemistry, which leads to the genes
and how they produce proteins, which are related to the
molecular structure of the drugs, which are related to the
structure of the bacteria and viruses that attack the human
cells, which lead to the biology of all the pathogens, which
lead to all the issues of biochemistry, pharmacology, etc.    (05)

And when you talk about medicine, you also have to talk about
the medical equipment, which involve chemistry, physics,
computers, electrical and electronic engineering, and all the
possible reactions with the human physiology.  And the medical
equipment interacts with all other kinds of equipment, including
the air conditioning, lighting, etc.    (06)

But a major part of any medical system involves the personnel of
doctors, nurses, administrators, and all the paperwork of billing,
supplies, government regulations, HMOs, insurance, etc.    (07)

Where do you stop?  Very quickly your controlled vocabulary
runs out of control.  And that's just for medicine.  You could
do the same thing for the petroleum industry or the auto industry.
And when you get to the government, you have connections to every
business, educational institution, and home in the country.    (08)

In short, I'm all in favor of developing controlled vocabularies.
But they very quickly run into other controlled vocabularies,
which lead to others, and others.    (09)

A dictionary, such as WordNet, or even the OED, is where all
those controlled vocabularies meet.  That's why I said we should
start with something like WordNet, which has been very usefully
combined with many ontologies, such as Cyc, SUMO, and others.    (010)

John Sowa    (011)

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