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

To: ONTAC-WG General Discussion <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: guarino@xxxxxxxxxx, CG <cg@xxxxxxxxxx>
From: Arun Majumdar <arun@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2005 11:19:37 -0500
Message-id: <43B40C99.4070306@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Leo and to ONTAC,    (01)

>ONTAC/COSMO needs dedicated and informed members to accomplish real
>goals set out in a reasonable fashion, with deliverables. And use
>cases/requirements to drive those. And structure that channels the
>energy toward accomplishment.     (02)

I strongly agree with all points and especially the last point:  While I have 
learned from the comments and notes, I hope that we can pool together to bring 
the level of discussion to feasable, direct and productive results:  for 
example, while I have benefitted from the responses concerning references to 
other ontologies, pros and cons, there seems no effort to adopt a 
representation (my suggestion is Common Logic) to provide some tools (my highly 
personal and biased suggestion is PROLOG) to deliver some mechanism to enable 
transforms to/from CL/DAML-S/KIF/OWL/etc.. etc... while continuing the effort 
forward in the spirit and intent of ONTAC. Of course, these are just quick 
suggestions for illustrative purposes. I hope ONTAC may also *investigate* the 
possibilities of a closer balance with vendor alignments without detracting 
from its "raison-d'etre".      (03)

In terms of the published goals ( 
http://colab.cim3.net/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?SICoP/OntologyTaxonomyCoordinatingWG )
I hope that we can collaborate on approaches that take advantage of modern 
methods like Category Theory (CT) and I ask if this type of suggestion is 
approapriate to this forum.  If it is appropriate,then perhaps we can consider 
how we might develop meta-meta and meta- models to facilitate the goals of 
interoperability that are founded in CT but realized pragmatically (perhaps 
using CL as the language).    (04)

Thanks,    (05)

Arun    (06)

Obrst, Leo J. wrote:    (07)

>I draw different conclusions from the experience of SUO, and largely
>programmatic rather than substantive in nature.
>1) For any standards activity (which the SUO purports to be), there
>must be general agreement for the need for the standard. By "general",
>I mean general agreement among those who have some competency and
>interest to address the standard. Has this ever been true for SUO? I
>don't think so. Instead it's been a forum for discussion about upper
>ontologies and related and often unrelated issues. Not that there's
>anything wrong with that per se, but it's not a standards activity.
>There has never been a common purpose, as far as I can tell. There were
>attempts to make it so, but these largely devolved into legalistic
>disputations on protocols. There has never been one agenda. 
>2) There was never a strict standards-based regimen for SUO. For a
>standard to emerge (let alone succeed) a lot of work must be done by at
>least a small group of people. Although I have some issues with the W3C
>methodology, it is strong, pragmatic, and gets things done. There is
>structure, time-dependent goals, and mechanisms for adjudicating
>disagreements and accomplishing those goals. There are use cases and
>requirements formulated. Finally, there is closure: a version of a
>standard emerges, representing a stake in the ground. Is it perfect?
>No, it never is. But it's reasonably good and useful. SUO has never had
>this regimen. Note that I do not fault the SUO chair (who has
>persevered and performed admirably under trying circumstances) for this
>lack, but the SUO membership and perhaps the IEEE standardization
>procedures: members have never assumed responsibility and the
>procedures were not there to insist that they do.
>3) Some members of SUO have in fact tried to sabotage prospective
>success, arguing either about the impossibility of the task to create
>an upper ontology or denigrating the contributions of other members
>eager to make headway. This behavior ensures failure. A common upper
>ontology is impossible because the SUO, organized to develop one, has
>not done so. Uh, something wrong with that reasoning.
>1-3 have driven many interested potential participants from the SUO,
>and I am afraid in their current incarnation here may do the same for
>ONTAC/COSMO needs dedicated and informed members to accomplish real
>goals set out in a reasonable fashion, with deliverables. And use
>cases/requirements to drive those. And structure that channels the
>energy toward accomplishment. 
>Dr. Leo Obrst       The MITRE Corporation, Information Semantics 
>lobrst@xxxxxxxxx    Center for Innovative Computing & Informatics 
>Voice: 703-983-6770 7515 Colshire Drive, M/S H305 
>Fax: 703-983-1379   McLean, VA 22102-7508, USA 
>-----Original Message-----
>From: ontac-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>[mailto:ontac-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of John F. Sowa
>Sent: Tuesday, December 27, 2005 12:13 PM
>To: ONTAC-WG General Discussion; CG
>Cc: guarino@xxxxxxxxxx
>Subject: [ontac-forum] Future directions for ontologies and
>Following is an edited and slightly expanded version
>of a note that I sent to the SUO list.  I believe that
>the conclusions I list below apply equally well to the
>ONTAC efforts.
>John Sowa
>-------- Original Message --------
>I think most people have come to some conclusion like that:
>>Maybe because we all are becoming accustomed to the thinking
>>that the SUO is a pipe dream and better to leave behind the
>>listing and all associated with it.
>When the SUO group was founded in 2000, most of us had some hope
>that a useful upper ontology could be developed, but nobody was
>able to agree on a common upper level.  Some conclusions:
>  1. Everybody who develops an upper ontology has very different
>     and inconsistent axioms at the topmost levels.
>  2. Those inconsistencies at the top make it impossible to share
>     anything at the lower levels with any other ontology whose
>     lower levels depend on assumptions made at the top.
>  3. Yet people have been communicating successfully for thousands
>     of years with very few common assumptions about top-level
>     entities, such as time, place, object, process, etc.
>  4. Database systems have been interoperating successfully for
>     about 40 years with very few axioms or assumptions about
>     the top levels.
>  5. The most successful sharing in *all* fields -- science,
>     engineering, medicine, business, etc. -- has been based on
>     *terminology* at lower levels with very few, if any axioms
>     about the upper levels.
>  6. On the other hand, we do need axioms (and programs, which
>     are essentially compiled axioms) in order to do any kind of
>     detailed reasoning, computation, and problem solving.
>  7. Therefore, we should make a clear distinction between the
>     vocabularies or terminologies, which have very few axioms,
>     and the problem-oriented reasoning and computational
>     systems.  For general purposes, sharing should be based on
>     the terminology.  For reasoning and computation, the axioms
>     should be introduced at the lower, problem-oriented levels.
>In short, the hope of finding a detailed common set of axioms
>at the upper levels is *DOOMED*.  On the other hand, a very
>simple upper level with very little detail would be possible.
>For example, the upper level might say that there exist such
>things as objects and processes, but not make *any* distinction
>between the two.  The question of which things are objects and
>which are processes would not be determined by axioms, but just
>by listing them:  a ball, a tree, and a house are objects, but
>walking, cooking, and cleaning are processes.
>Some things, such as a star or a vortex could be listed without
>any commitment to whether they're an object or a process.  Then
>one could talk (or reason) about the sun as an object for some
>applications or a process for others.  A hurricane could be
>listed as a vortex, and it would be possible to reason about a
>hurricane with either object-oriented or process-oriented axioms.
>That approach would accommodate both Whitehead's ontology, which
>makes processes fundamental, and an ontology that makes objects
>fundamental.  In W's ontology, all objects, stars, and vortices
>would be defined as types of processes, but there would be no
>need to make that assumption in general.
>For any kind of detailed work in science and engineering,
>Whitehead's ontology is more realistic, but for reasoning
>about everyday things, it might be convenient to assume that
>objects are the participants that constitute processes.  For
>some problems, one or another of those assumptions might be
>preferable, but those detailed axioms should only be assumed
>at the problem-oriented level, *not* at the upper levels.
>Another example is the question whether a vase and the lump
>of clay from which it is made are one object or two.  That is
>another assumption that is very much problem dependent, and
>it should *not* be a requirement enforced at the upper levels.
>The only people who worry about such issues might be pottery
>workers, and they have much more detailed problems to think about.
>The SUO work over the past five years has been interesting,
>and we all learned a lot.  But the most important thing we
>learned is that assuming a fixed and frozen set of upper-level
>axioms does not promote interoperability.  Instead, the axioms
>introduce irrelevant contradictions that are a major barrier
>to communication and sharing.  The solution is to minimize the
>axioms at the top levels and to introduce them as needed at
>the problem-oriented lower levels.
>John Sowa
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>    (08)

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