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

To: "ONTAC-WG General Discussion" <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Azamat" <abdoul@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 30 Dec 2005 17:54:43 +0200
Message-id: <001701c60d59$5a321580$f802960a@az00evbfog6nhh>

John comments to others comments:


<<Some related comments by Dale and Nicolas:
NR> You're convinced that the "one-size-fits-all" upper
 > ontology is doomed for failure. But failure for what kind
 > of problem?
DL> 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?
To answer Dale's last question:  Of course they do.  That's
 why they would never accept any proposal as a final TOE
 without an enormous amount of testing -- even then, they
 would continue probing for flaws for centuries.  They
 certainly would not accept anything as a TOE just because
 some TOE Working Group recommended it.>>



Your persistent criticism of a unified framework ontology (UFO) is counting more on rhetorical points, metaphors, analogies, and figures  than on substantial grounds and facts. I hardly open a big secret saying that a unified theory of world entities and relationships implicitly governs and directs the whole process of scientific knowledge, thus enabling the most fundamental theories of modern science to be discovered. 

The real reason why more and more researchers are becoming so sceptical about the "one-size-fits-all ontology" comes from the failure of formal logic to cope with the matter (the real world and its representation) which is not in its legal jurisdiction. Observing how formal logicians from W3C are cooking up one raw recommendation after another, one may start thinking of an Eleventh Commandment: ''Almighty deliver us from formal logicians and corrupted politicians''.
To be serious, the major obstacle to UFO is that the high task demands profound scholarly learning, intellectual dedication and consecration to fundamental study. The good and useful practice of SUO demonstrates that we must follow some basic methodological principles and strategic assumptions to construct a unifying foundational ontology. Among them, I believe, are the following:

Traditionality, no one large classification scheme will have application prospects without being grounded on the classical ontological writings and works. Aristotle's standard books in the first place, to which all the great minds seeking for a broad scheme of things tried to conform for many ages (OWL is just a formal extension of some parts of Topics);

Fundamentality, until the fundamental ontological categories will not be cleared up and specified as the general type system, all attempts of erecting an ontology standard will be impracticable with inherent flaws insuring their failure in future applications;

Mathematicism and scientism, the knowledge standard should be constructed as a universal system of classes, definitions, axioms, and rules consistent with the sciences and mathematics to render the completeness of analysis, consistency of meaning, and correctness of inference;

Hierarchy and systematism, there are three types of ontology, one universal, several upper-level, and numerous regional or domain-specific ontologies; the union of which should form a complete, unifying modeling system;

Universality, the common standard is a theory and a language at the same time. Since it can be employed as a language by the specific theory, like theoretical sciences (relativity) are using mathematical language (topology), and all of them ? a general ontological language; so that the UFO will provide a language expressing both entities and relationships altogether with the built-in rules for reasoning over objects, states, processes and relations. At the level of web data, it is what the semantic web folks are striving to uselessly achieve, to create a language uniformly expressing both data and rules for reasoning about this data



As always with kind regards,


Azamat Abdoullaev

EIS Encyclopedic Intelligent Systems Ltd


Moscow, RUSSIA



----- Original Message -----
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
To: "ONTAC-WG General Discussion" <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: <guarino@xxxxxxxxxx>; "Doug Lenat" <doug@xxxxxxx>
Sent: Friday, December 30, 2005 9:18 AM
Subject: Re: [ontac-forum] Future directions for ontologies and terminologies

> Folks,
> Before commenting on the responses to this thread, I'd
> like to quote a comment that Cory Casanave made on
> a different thread:
> CC> A valuable task for this group would be to collect and
> > validate user driven requirements as well as the scenario
> > of applying an upper ontology to those solutions.  This
> > will help nail down the set of problems we are addressing
> > and serve as a set of test cases for the solutions to be
> > applied.  Such examples should be expressed in general but
> > backed up with user driven and specific test cases.  I
> > suspect this kind of focus is the only thing that can
> > resolve the theoretical debates.
> Absolutely!  A representative set of test cases would be an
> enormous aid to focusing these discussions.
> In fact, Cyc has addressed far more cases than any other
> ontology on the planet.  Although I have criticized Cyc many
> times (largely because it's such a large target), if I were
> forced to choose one single ontology today, the only one I
> would seriously consider is Cyc -- primarily because it has
> been tried and tested on a large and varied number of cases.
> On the other hand, if I did adopt Cyc, my first step would be
> to modularize it from top to bottom.  I would keep the entire
> existing Cyc ontology as an option, but I would move nearly
> all the axioms to microtheories -- including the ones at the
> very top -- and make it possible to test alternative top
> levels (or even no top level at all).
> To return to this thread, I'll start with a comment by Dale:
> DL> The word "lattice" connotes, however, an overly rigid
> > structure that is not amenable to most "ontologists."
> > Isn't it more a "mesh"?
> The lattice of theories comes for free when you adopt first
> order logic or many subsets or extensions thereof.  Nearly 70
> years ago, Adolf Lindenbaum proved a theorem, which I discussed
> in my theories.htm paper, that the set of all theories that can
> be expressed in such a logic forms a lattice.
> So I would answer that a lattice is not "overly" rigid.  It
> is the natural "mesh" that results from your choice of logic.
> You can choose to ignore it, but I recommend that we should
> take advantage of it as a basis for relating and organizing
> the modules (or microtheories) of an ontology.
> Some related comments by Dale and Nicolas:
> NR> You're convinced that the "one-size-fits-all" upper
> > ontology is doomed for failure. But failure for what kind
> > of problem?
> DL> 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?
> To answer Dale's last question:  Of course they do.  That's
> why they would never accept any proposal as a final TOE
> without an enormous amount of testing -- even then, they
> would continue probing for flaws for centuries.  They
> certainly would not accept anything as a TOE just because
> some TOE Working Group recommended it.
> As an example of a disastrous assumption that does not belong
> at the upper levels, the philosopher Peter Strawson proposed
> that "objects" should have "ontological priority" over processes
> because processes cannot be identified without first identifying
> the objects that participate in them.  Nicholas Rescher ridiculed
> that claim by saying that numbers should be given ontological
> priority over people because people are typically identified by
> social security numbers, employee numbers, etc.  Alonzo Church
> made an amusing response to a similar claim:
> But more important than the amusement is the fact that there
> are no such things as primitive objects in physics.  Even though
> physicists don't yet have a TOE, all available evidence points
> to the fact that processes are far more fundamental than objects
> at every level.  Even at the macro level, living organisms are
> processes that cannot survive for even a short time without
> continuous input of air, water, food, etc.
> This point, by the way, is one of the reasons why Cyc's upper
> level is so complicated -- they're trying to accommodate both
> views at the same time.  That's one reason why I would prefer
> to keep modules for birth & death, creation & destruction, etc.,
> out of the upper levels and only bring them in if the current
> topic requires them.
> Barry made several detailed comments on my note:
> BS> Actually I think BFO, SUO and DOLCE agree on very much; an
> > active effort to merge BFO and DOLCE is under way, and I plan
> > to attempt to initiate a similar effort with SUO in the future.
> That's good progress.  But whenever ontology is being discussed,
> the big elephant in the room is Cyc.  As I mentioned above, Cyc
> has addressed a far greater range of issues than any other proposed
> ontology.  I would have much more confidence in a merger that
> included Cyc than one that ignored Cyc.
> JS>> 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.
> BS> There are philosophers, it is true, who have very strange
> > assumptions about some of these things; but common people share
> > very many of these assumptions; each that there is an earlier
> > and later, that some objects are closer together than others;
> > that objects can undergo processes of change; that objects can
> > be destroyed, etc.
> I'm all in favor of having modules for time, space, etc., in the
> ontology, but only as replaceable options for a 3-D vs. 4-D view,
> a Newtonian vs. relativistic time or even for a nonmetric time
> (in cases where the causal ordering is fixed, but the durations
> may be unpredictable and difficult or impossible to measure).
> BS> There are now beginning to be examples of cases where strong
> > ontologies were able to resolve some of these problems.
> Those would be excellent use cases for testing and evaluating
> ontologies.  But I would also like to ask what use was made
> of the axioms, what kinds of axioms were used, and what level
> of detail was needed for different applications.
> JS>> 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.
> BS> I think this is just wrong. When scientists (to take just one
> > example) use variables (x, y, z, t, etc.) to formulate differential
> > equations there is a complex web of axioms underlying such use.
> There are very few unarticulated assumptions at the fundamental
> levels of physics other than the assumption of regularity in
> nature and the belief that there exists something outside our
> minds.  Over the past few centuries, physicists have invented
> numerous mathematical formalisms with widely varying structures,
> but equivalent predictions.
> For example, the global _principle of least action_ (which in
> modern terms is represented by the Lagrangian) is formally
> equivalent to the localized differential equations.  In quantum
> mechanics, Heisenberg developed matrix mechanics and Schrödinger
> developed wave mechanics from very different assumptions, but they
> were again proved to be formally equivalent.  For these issues,
> I highly recommend _The Road to Reality_ by Roger Penrose.
> BS> These axioms are, it is true, rarely explicitly formulated. But
> > that is in part because they are mostly trivial; in part because
> > scientists themselves are tacitly perfectly familiar with them.
> > when scientists from different disciplines need to interact, then
> > some of these axioms do become explicitly formulated (as, again,
> > in the sphere of biomedicine).
> I agree that everyone in every endeavor has an enormous number
> of unarticulated assumptions.  And Cyc is the group that has done
> more than any other to recognize them and formalize them -- that
> reinforces my earlier point about Cyc.
> JS>> For reasoning and computation, the axioms should be introduced
> >> at the lower, problem-oriented levels.
> BS> The current movement in biomedical informatics (which is the
> > area I know best) points in an exactly opposite direction.
> Perhaps, but I'd like to see the use cases.
> JS>> 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.
> BS> As history shows, scientific nihilism is usually a bad idea...
> Yes, but I'm recommending pluralism (an infinite lattice), not
> nihilism.  However, for most of these cases, we are debating
> the boundary between detailed and simple.  That is best decided
> by studying the use cases and by including the group with the
> most experience -- Cyc.  (See also the discussion below about
> situation calculus vs. pi calculus.)
> JS>> For example, the upper level might say that there exist such
> >> things as objects and processes, but not make *any* distinction
> >> between the two.
> BS> Soup, eh?
> On the contrary, what I call the knowledge soup results from
> a disorganized accumulation of too much detail.  The process
> of "crystallizing theories out of knowledge soup" consists of
> selecting the minimum axioms necessary for solving a problem.
> Some responses to Chris:
> CM> Surely it is important that researchers within that very
> > large community mean the same things by such terms as "blood",
> > "gene", "ribosome", "protein synthesis", "cellular degeneration",
> > etc, and that, in particular, they can be sure that the results
> > of any reasoning upon those terms can be shared consistently
> > within the community.
> Certainly.  But I would hardly consider those categories to be
> in the upper-level ontology.  And when you start talking about
> research on protein synthesis, any upper-level assumptions
> about distinctions between objects and processes are almost
> certainly going to be inconsistent with the physics at the
> molecular level.
> CM> Generalizing the point to the thousands of salient terms within
> > the biomedical community, a fairly elaborate common upper-level
> > ontology would seem to be essential if sharing is to be possible
> > within that community at all.
> There is a very big difference between sharing data and accepting
> conclusions.  Sherlock Holmes, for example, would never accept a
> conclusion from Scotland Yard without seeing all the original data,
> the assumptions made, and the steps of the reasoning.  The same is
> true for professionals in any field -- ranging from medicine and
> law to Egyptian archeology.
> Any complex conclusion that is being shared should also specify
> exactly which sets of axioms were used to derive it.  That is why
> I recommend the metadata registry for cataloging those modules in
> the lattice of theories that are frequently used and reused.
> Nicolas asked a large number of very pertinent questions:
> NR> what kind of meta-ontology of problem solving do we need to
> > organize/classify/recognize/discriminate ONTAC problems?
> This and the other questions in your note are very important.
> I don't know the answers, but I believe that this group must
> address them before making any firm recommendations.
> Leo made the following point:
> LO> I draw different conclusions from the experience of SUO,
> > and largely programmatic rather than substantive in nature.
> I'm not sure where we differ, because I agree with the points
> you made following this remark.
> The following remark by Nicolas shows why the detailed axioms
> for time should be kept out of the upper levels:
> NR> Besides PSL and FLOWS having a solid formalization in CL or
> > a dialect of CL (e.g., a KIF-like dialect for PSL) both PSL
> > and FLOWS are ontologies focused on the notion of "process"
> > and associated concepts, e.g., object, activity, activity
> > occurrence, etc...
> A major problem with PSL is that it is based on the situation
> calculus, which has been widely used in AI, but by practically
> nobody outside of AI.  In fact, three major areas use pi
> calculus rather than situation calculus:
>  1. It's implemented in the Erlang language, which is the
>     primary language for programming telephone networks.
>     (Robin Milner, who developed the pi-calculus, had been
>     a consultant to both ATT and British Telephone.)
>  2. It's implemented in LOTOS, which has become an ISO
>     standard, and which is used very widely by NASA for
>     the very complex and delicate temporal reasoning
>     problems in their space missions.
>  3. It's being used as a foundation for the methodologies
>     for Business Process Modeling.  See, for example, the
>     book by Michael Havey, _Essentials of Business Process
>     Modeling_, which contains a good overview of the pi
>     calculus and how it is being used in practice.
> When I talk about disasters, I mean the possibility of
> requiring situation calculus in preference to pi calculus.
> Forcing that assumption would create inconsistencies with
> the telephone industry, the aerospace industry, and
> business data processing.
> I would have no objections to including modules for both
> situation calculus and pi calculus in the ontology, but I
> would strongly object to making either one a requirement.
> John Sowa

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