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Re: [ontac-forum] Re: The world may fundamentally be inexplicable

To: "Smith, Barry" <phismith@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: guarino@xxxxxxxxxx, CG <cg@xxxxxxxxxx>, ONTAC-WG General Discussion <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 14 Jan 2006 12:47:03 -0500
Message-id: <43C93917.5090700@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Barry,    (01)

I thought I had made my point rather clear:    (02)

JS>> There is no way to design an ontology for one field, say
 >> bioinformatics, that does not involve interoperability
 >> with *every* other field of endeavor known to mankind.    (03)

BS> I think this is a reductio ad absurdum of John's position.    (04)

Let me try another way:  the natural languages we use today
have evolved from the syntactic and lexical resources of the
languages used by our stone-age ancestors.  Yet they have
proved to have sufficient flexibility to support the most
advanced sciences of our day and to enable specialists in any
domain to talk at various levels of detail with specialists
in any other domain on areas of mutual interest.    (05)

The goal, which I believe we can support, is to design a
framework for ontology that is sufficiently flexible that it
can come close to the flexibility of our natural languages:    (06)

  1. The ability to support general discourse, at a relatively
     shallow level of axiomatization, among specialists whose
     primary training is in widely different domains.    (07)

  2. The ability to support more detailed discourse among
     specialists in a common domain  -- in medicine, for example,
     among a general practitioner, surgeons, specialists,
     nurses, and even patients, who may not have much detailed
     training, but who have the most direct experience with
     their symptoms.    (08)

  3. And the ability to dig deep into the research levels of
     any domain at the finest levels of detail.    (09)

JS>> Nobody can be a specialist in every possible area, but we
 >> must not only consider today's specialties, but also specialties
 >> that may arise in the next 20 to 40 years.    (010)

BS> And the specialisms already existing in distinct galaxies,
 > I presume.    (011)

Certainly.  The framework I proposed in my last note supports
that ability.  Since you seem to have stopped reading at the point
of this remark, I'll repeat the proposal:    (012)

Summary:  The primary task for ONTAC WG is to design a framework
for interoperable systems that may be specialized for different
application domains.  I would recommend the following approach:    (013)

  1. A core ontology that is mostly a neutral taxonomy with very
     few detailed axioms, and those axioms should not make any
     commitments that would conflict with any reasonable scientific
     or engineering principles or techniques.    (014)

  2. Multiple hub ontologies, which include more detailed taxonomies
     for special domains together with prepackaged axioms for the
     common methods of talking and reasoning in each domain.    (015)

  3. An open-ended number of problem-oriented modules, some of which
     may be bundled in the packages that are used in one or more hubs,
     but any of which could be used independently in connection with
     the ontologies of any hub.    (016)

  4. Methodologies for organizing the hubs and modules, relating
     them to one another, registering them in a metadata registry,
     and providing tools for assembling, verifying, and testing
     modules and hubs.    (017)

With this approach, a hub could include as many predefined and
prepackaged definitions and axioms as anyone working in any
specific application domain might desire.  However, it would also
support methods for relating hubs and modules and for sprouting
new hubs for new application domains as they are needed.    (018)

John Sowa    (019)

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