W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-rdf-logic@w3.org > June 2001

Re: performatives and trust

From: pat hayes <phayes@ai.uwf.edu>
Date: Thu, 7 Jun 2001 19:21:31 -0500
Message-Id: <v04210161b745b400e008@[]>
To: las@olin.edu
Cc: www-rdf-logic@w3.org
>Ah, now *you* are making assumptions about *me* and what I meant:

How could it be otherwise, in a social setting? (You know, email 
badly needs a 'smiley' which indicates tongue in cheek.  :-^ maybe.)

>pat hayes wrote:
> > >I think that Pat will fundamentally disagree with what I just said, and I
> > >expect that most who come from logicist backgrounds will join him in this.
> >
> > I might add, however, in response to your quick assumption
> > about my narrowmindedness,
>(1) I did not quickly assume anything.  I was explicitly stating my 
>of your position so that that understanding could be tested.  (Note the use of
>the phrase "I think that...")  Evidently, I had misunderstood you, and I'm
>grateful for the clarification.
>(2) *You* used the word narrowmindedness.  I did not, nor did I mean to imply
>such a thing.  G-d knows, your mind is anything but narrow!

Sorry, I should have guarded the 'quick 
assumption....narrowmindedness' with a smiley. I didnt intend to 
sound so pugnacious.

> > that the idea that the "logicist
> > background" is somehow restricted to narrow, confined, closed worlds
> > is itself a profoundly misleading impression...
>Nonetheless, in (almost all classical) logic, there *is* a truth of 
>the matter,
>whether it's known or not.

Classical logic assumes binary truth values, indeed. But that 
assumption seems relatively harmless to me. After all, there IS a 
truth of the matter, right? The world is the way it is, in fact. 
Logic is quite capable of shrugging its shoulders: think of (P or not 
P) for example, which is about the purest expression of "I dunno" 
that one could wish for. (The often-expressed feelings that talk of 
truth is overly left-brainish, or something, seem to me to based on 
misconceptions about what logic means by 'truth'.) But in any case, 
if one really wants to be able to express intermediate truthvalues 
there are any number of formal logics that will do that for you, at 
more or less cost in clarity, as you know.

>On the web, I don't believe there (always) is.

But what does that mean? The information on the web is still 
*information*, just like information from other sources. The 
propositions expressed in some refrigerator's ontology about the 
state of its motor bearings, or that some banking agent is using to 
decide whether or not to scroll out some cash, or whatever, is still 
ABOUT the same buzzing, blooming world that all other formalized 
knowledge is about. Just because the axioms are located on a website 
somewhere and accessed via a URI doesnt make them ABOUT a different 
world. And so why would there be any less of 'truth of the matter' 
with web-based reasoning than with any other reasoning? That matter 
is the same, whatever the location of the axioms that refer to it.

I don't see how putting an ontology on the web gives it any kind of 
new content, or changes its essential semantics or meaning.

> I
>think the classical paradoxes (particularly of knowledge and belief) 
>are likely
>to recur in spades.

That may be true (actually I think it is unlikely, in fact, but thats 
another, more technical, debate), but I fail to see what it has to do 
with truth. First, the presence of paradoxes doesnt alter the nature 
of truth (in fact, on the contrary: without some reasonably robust 
notion of truth, the paradoxes don't even arise.) Second, even if 
those paradoxes of self-reference do show up, that isnt going to 
effect the *truth* (or otherwise) of most of the assertions on the 
web, its just going to make life harder for the reasoners.

> Note that this is separate from the social-embedding
>question, on which just a few words towards the end of this message.

I agree it is separate.

> >
> > What I meant was that once one has access to a URL where an ontology
> > is located - a web-site containing some DAML, to make the example
> > concrete - *all* the DAML on the website is fully and immediately
> > available,
>Probably.  And I'll presume that you *don't* draw the conclusion that all the
>"relevant" DAML is on the website.  (I'm not interested in defining relevant
>precisely here....)  Please let me know if this presumption on my 
>part is wrong.
>I think that this is nearing the heart of the issue from the logical (as I
>understand you to be using it) perspective.

Right, I don't draw that conclusion.  (Unless of course the ontology 
itself says that it has all the relevant information, and I have 
reason to believe it.)  One almost never has 'all the relevant' 
information: one needs special logics in order to even state things 
like closed world assumptions. (Actually, strictly speaking, I do not 
even know what 'all the relevant' means; classic logic says nothing 
about relevancy, only about truth; which is indeed one of its 
weaknesses; but you can hardly accuse it of being presumptive. )

> > and moreover, there isn't anything else 'behind' it, in
> > contrast to the thoughts, intentions, desires and so on that give
> > rise to speech acts.
>Um, this part I'm not so sure of.  We'd need to unpack it further. 
>(A) I fully
>expect BDI-type and conversational agents on the web.  (B) My understanding of
>the web is VERY strongly embedded in a social context.

I expect this is where we part company. I see no major relevance of 
BDI reasoning to the semantic web.  (Note, I said semantic web, not 
web.) I can see no utility in having conversational agents on the 
semantic web (why would my ontology want to have a *conversation* 
with your ontology?) or of agents having desires, or even beliefs in 
other than a very attenuated sense.

I know yours is a very popular view, but I see no actual evidence for 
it, and retain a very strong cynicism about the more, er, social 
vision of 'agents'. As far as I can tell, that word 'agent' has a 
collection of technical meanings which have virtually nothing to do 
with one another, and the only technical meanings of 'agent' that 
make sense in the SW/DAML context are completely disjoint from the 
meanings that have any social relevance (chatterbots, animated faces 
and other media-labbish stuff.)

>But this is clearly off the central issue at the moment, which is whether --
>devoid of any social context -- there's a truth of the matter on the 
>web.  (I'm
>trying to stick to logic here, as you understand it and not as you take me to
>understand it.)

OK. As I say, it seems to me that on or off the web, truth is truth.

> > If we think of ontologies as like formalised
> > knowledge (most ontologies seem more like formalised thought than
> > formalised speech), then the prototypical communicative act is more
> > like a direct transfer of mentalese than a speech act.
>This is where I think (again, I'm postulating...) that there's a gap in
>perspectives.  It's my impression that those coming from the web world take
>communication in a way that those coming from a logicist world would associate
>with speech acts, while those from logicist backgrounds may not.
>Lots of interesting comments deleted because I think they're a 
>separate argument
>for another time.  But summarizing:
> > Its a small point, maybe, but I made it in response to Tim Finin's
> > pointer to work on speech acts in this context. I think that the
> > analogy of web agent communication to human communication is often
> > taken for granted; but that it should be looked at more carefully, as
> > it isn't as exact or as automatic as is often assumed. Even on the
> > semantic web, software agents really aren't much like human agents,
> > and they really do not have a social life, all the hype
> > notwithstanding.
>I do not share your understanding.  My failure to see things from your
>perspective may be mistaken, but it is not naively so.  It is my 
>(and, perhaps you'll grant me, somewhat educated) opinion that web 
>*is* socially embedded in a very real sense.  But I really think we 
>should unpack
>one issue at a time.

We need to be clearer about what we are saying. This email 
conversation, taking place in a kind of electronic open forum, is 
certainly socially embedded, and might be said to be web 
communication. The use of IRC to communicate within technical 
committees is another example , and other new ways to communicate, 
and to form groups, continue to appear. Sure, that is all social, 
obviously. But do *software agents* live in anything like a social 
world? If you think they do, I would love to hear more about why you 
think so.

I do tend to react to the widespread use of 'agent' to mean something 
with a social life. That word, especially when conjoined with 
'intelligent', often seems to come with a presumption, or an explicit 
claim, that things like web-crawlers should be seen as being like 
simplified people which live their lives on the web in a kind of 
virtual agent society. And I see no evidence that this is true, or 
ever likely to become true. This idea has been driven to dizzy 
heights: there are published papers seriously suggesting that agents 
need to be provided with protocols by which they can be courteous or 
discourteous to one another so that they evolve a richer social life, 
so that my agent might doff its virtual hat and send messages to 
yours using the GALACTP (gentleman agent to lady agent courteous 
transfer protocol). This seems to me to be intellectual kudzu, a 
metaphor run wild which is choking rational thought. (Why stop there? 
We could give some of the agents electronic halitosis to give their 
social lives a bit more of a challenge.)

Well, I will stop yelling, but you get my drift, I expect. I don't 
mean to accuse you of mental kudzu, only to explain my own motivation 
for feeling that the 'social agent' view needs some contrarian 
voices, and in any case is worth debating explicitly rather than 
being taken for granted. But we should probably take this off 
RDFlogic ;-)


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Received on Thursday, 7 June 2001 20:21:37 UTC

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