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RE: Proposed issue: What does using an URI require of me and my software?

From: John Black <JohnBlack@deltek.com>
Date: Thu, 9 Oct 2003 07:52:49 -0400
Message-ID: <D3C8F903E7CC024C9DA6D900A60725D90258D498@DLTKVMX1.ads.deltek.com>
To: "Peter F. Patel-Schneider" <pfps@research.bell-labs.com>
Cc: <phayes@ihmc.us>, <james.lynn@hp.com>, <public-sw-meaning@w3.org>

> From: Peter F. Patel-Schneider [mailto:pfps@research.bell-labs.com]
> Sent: Friday, October 03, 2003 3:40 PM
> From: "John Black" <JohnBlack@deltek.com>
> Subject: RE: Proposed issue: What does using an URI require 
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From: pat hayes [mailto:phayes@ihmc.us]
> > > Sent: Friday, October 03, 2003 1:48 PM
> > > To: LYNN,JAMES (HP-USA,ex1)
> [...]
> > > Not naive at all, right on the button. Like, what 
> > > problem are we setting out to solve here? What 
> > > might go wrong that our declarations of Policy 
> > > and Correct Architecture and so on are aiming to 
> > > prevent? I for one am completely unclear what the 
> > > issues are supposed to be that so concern us 
> > > here, and I am extremely worried that we will 
> > > make declarations based on mistaken ideas about 
> > > meaning rather than on any actual problems.
> >  
> > Ok. ACorp creates a acorp:uri123 which is a serial 
> > number of one of its acorp:StandardWidget, which 
> > is the product ID of its standard widget and has property 
> > listPrice = $2.00 according to its ontology acorp:catalogue.
> > BCorp, thru their sw-agent, buys a batch of these including 
> > acorp:uri123.  Now BCorp turns around and sends the batch to 
> > CCorp's sw-agent with an RDF invoice that states that 
> > acorp:uri123 a ACorp:DeluxeWidget.  CCorp can verify that 
> > the list price of a ACorp:DeluxeWidget is $10.00 and happily 
> > pays BCorp their asking price of $5.00.
> > 
> > Now the RDF invoice used two of ACorps URIs to 
> > commit fraud.  Those URIs belong to ACorp and it was never 
> > ACorps intention that acorp:uri123 be called anything other 
> > than a acorp:StandardWidget.  How could ACorp make this 
> > clear to CCorp?  One solution would be to publish at 
> > acorp:uri123 the statement, this is <> a acorp:StandardWidget.
> > 
> > Note that this is a boring, trivial example.  There is no 
> > inference, semantic search, or other sw-interesting ideas 
> > in it.  I'm using it to point out that URIs have 
> > social meanings that will become represented and 
> > communicated by the Semantic Web.  
> BCorp lied.  So what?  Do you really expect the Semantic Web 
> to prohibit
> lying?  CCorp accepted the information that BCorp gave it.  
> Do you really
> expect the Semantic Web to educate fools?  

Somehow these "fools" always turn out to be our brothers and sisters, 
mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and family - even me. 
Automobile manufacturers were finally required to provide seatbelts 
and airbags to protect the "fools" that drive recklessly and to 
protect us from them.  I suspect they objected at first, saying things 
like "Its not cars that cause accidents, its the fools who drive them 
carelessly that kill people.  You'll cripple transportation if you ask 
us to get involved in these problems."  

There's another argument made that considerations of such 
problems and any solutions to them don't belong in the architecture.  
In the past, buildings were designed without regard for earthquakes.  
Over the years, thousands of people died.  Now building architects 
build defenses against earthquakes into the architecture from the 

Its also suggested that we don't know enough about what the Semantic 
Web will become to act now.  I thought of this argument this morning 
as I was driving to work in an intense fog that comes over Northern
Virginia sometimes.  When my visibility is reduced, and I can't see 
what dangers lie ahead, I tend to become more cautious and alert, 
rather than less.  So why does the uncertainty of direction of the 
Semantic Web argue for doing nothing?  Are we hoping that if we 
just keep quiet and leave it up to government and lawyers, maybe 
they won't come back and ask us, "Hey.  Can't you do something 
technological about this? something like quake-proof buildings 
or automobiles with airbags?"

There seems to be a sense in society that the makers of products 
should think about these things.  Is the Semantic Web different?  Are 
sw-agents products?  If not, what are they?  Are they beings, endowed 
by their creators with inalienable rights? Do they have first amendment 
rights?  Someone's going to think and act on these questions.  Why not 
us, here, now?

John Black

> The issues are whether CCorp has to trust the information it gets from
> BCorp and whether CCorp can determine whether BCorp is 
> telling the truth.
> In a situation where information about a URI need not be gathered from
> ``the standard place'' I don't see any reason why CCorp could 
> not go to
> ``the standard place'' in ACorp's web site to determine whether the
> information it is getting from from BCorp follows from the information
> available from ACorp.  I similarly don't see any reason 
> (except for the
> extremely limited expressive power of RDF) why CCorp could 
> not determine
> whether BCorp's information is inconsitent with ACorp's information.
> CCorp is free to do this, or not.
> All the above is in the most simple case, where one would 
> expect that using
> information consistently would be most desirable, yet there 
> seems, to me,
> no requirement that everyone has to use the same 
> authoritative information.
> There may be a cost to doing something else, but there also may be
> benefits.
> For example, suppose ACorp put up pricing information for its
> widgets?  How could anyone sell ACorp's widgets for a 
> different price if
> everyone had to use ACorp's information about its widgets?
> Or suppose that ACorp created acorp:invoiceuri3.14159 which 
> has all the
> right stuff hanging off it to look like a valid invoice 
> saying that ACorp
> sent 1000 widgets to CCorp for the total price of $2000.  If 
> everyone has
> to believe ACorp about its uris mean/denote then how can 
> CCorp even tell
> anyone that ACorp is lying?  This information will have to 
> use ACorp's URIs
> and thus will be infected by ACorps lies.  
> Peter F. Patel-Schneider
Received on Thursday, 9 October 2003 07:57:41 UTC

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