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RE: [ontac-forum] Future directions for ontologies and terminologies

To: <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>, "ONTAC-WG General Discussion" <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "Lichtblau, Dale" <Del@xxxxxxx>
From: "Lichtblau, Dale" <Del@xxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2005 00:42:10 -0500
Message-id: <DC92506CBE953D44A0EF52095965E835029340@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>


Regarding your general observations:

1. Are you implying that the "one-size-fits-all ontology" of the contemporary physicist looking for the "theory of everything" (TOE) is a "disaster"? Do they know that?

2. You say, "committees, juries, legislatures, advisory boards, etc. are the only means for making good evaluations." No doubt. But shouldn't (couldn't) their collective wisdom inform the designer?

3. A "lattice" of theories is the current (me thinks rightly) scientific paradigm. (The word "lattice" connotes, however, an overly rigid structure that is not amenable to most "ontologists." Isn't it more a "mesh"?)

4. Indeed. Time marches on. But a computer program, in some sense, is necessarily (internaly) consistent (at each point in time)--else it would "crash."

5. I'd submit that every highly-specialized "field" of "scientific" (medical or otherwise) endeavor has an inplicit, but coherent (more or less) (i.e., self-consistent) "ontology" that serves that community very well. Being able to "expose" that ontology in a formal language requires a logician.

Best to all,

-----Original Message-----
From: John F. Sowa [mailto:sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx]
Sent: Wed 12/28/2005 11:37 PM
To: Lichtblau, Dale; ONTAC-WG General Discussion; Lichtblau, Dale
Subject: RE: [ontac-forum] Future directions for ontologies and terminologies

Chris, Pat, Dale, Nicolas, and Barry,

I'll respond to the detailed points later, but I'd just like
to make a few general observations:

 1. All the responses confirm my point that the kinds of
    axioms, the level of detail, and the granularity required
    are problem dependent, and any attempt to enforce a
    one-size-fits-all ontology would be a disaster.   

 2. Chris talked about distributed reasoning systems in which
    different agents use different axioms.  We have them today.
    They're called committees, juries, legislatures, advisory
    boards, etc.  They're often good for making evaluations,
    but no so good for designs (cf. the proverbial camel).

 3. I agree with Pat that a single ontology would promote
    interoperability among the systems that adopt it.  But
    nobody has addressed the problem of legacy systems and
    future systems.  Pat does not want to talk about "fixed
    and frozen" systems and wants to let the ontologies evolve.
    So do I.  But I maintain that the fundamental design
    must accommodate evolution from the beginning.  That's
    the point of the lattice of theories.

 4. Dale's quotation from Steiner is very apt.  I would just
    add two lines to the following:

    "No two historical epochs, no two social classes, no two
    localities use words and syntax to signify exactly the
    same things, to send identical signals of valuation and
    inference. Neither do two human beings."

    My addition:

    Neither do any two large computer programs nor even any
    two releases of what is called the "same" program.
 5. Barry mentioned the "biomedical field", but that field,
    like most, breaks down into an enormous number of subfields
    and specializations.  Some of which (such as patient records)
    are well served by terminologies with very few axioms, and
    others (such as research and diagnostics) require much more
    detail that is *extremely* problem dependent.

John Sowa

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