RE: Semantic Layers (Was Interpretation of RDF reification)


Good to see you in this battlefield, after I left the ONTAC one.

I read your 27-page article Architectures for Intelligent Systems with great
pleasure, and I now started with the Elephant story, which is quite old and
sketchy, but via Google I couldn't find anything newer (but perhaps my
search criteria weren't good enough) :-)

When I read that architecture article I thought: Wow, I'd like to have that
FMF! But at the same time I realized that it would be too complex for
"normal" IT persons working in the industry. Grand designs are thoroughly
mistrusted in our industry.

That exactly is a major problem, because we really have to do our utmost to
hide the complexities of our OWL implementation for "normal" users and IT
persons, and still make it maintainable and extendable.

Perhaps our use of OWL isn't that sexy, because all we try is to map the
data of a zillion computer systems into a common format and store it in a
zillion triple stores, with the sole objective to integrate facility
lifecycle information represented by that data. No DL, no reasoning, only
SPARQL, perhaps a few simple rules. 

We only describe state information during decades of lifetime of a facility,
using a 4D data model. The data comes from those zillion computer systems,
and it is the responsibility of the users of those specialized systems to
come up with the proper data that comply with a zillion rules and
regulations (such as the ASME Boiler Code, the OSHA, to mention some).

Having glanced into that Elephant document I simply can't visualize that the
work processes and their rules in the world we work in (process industries,
such as chemical plants, oil refineries) ever can be expressed in whatever
language. Perhaps it could, but the "cost of ownership" (setting it up and
maintaining it) would be prohibitive.

So, as much as I value your work, I think we stick to OWL, with all its
uncertainties and idiosyncrasies. We may be heading for a Titanic-like
disaster (as you seem to believe), but its music is nice...

Kind regards,
Hans Teijgeler
ISO 15926 specialist
+31-72-509 2005


-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of John F. Sowa
Sent: Wednesday, March 29, 2006 19:37
To: Harry Halpin
Cc:; Frank Manola; Adrian Walker; Peter F.
Patel-Schneider;; ONTAC-WG General Discussion
Subject: Re: Semantic Layers (Was Interpretation of RDF reification)


As much as I like logic, I admit that the most important questions of life
(and of engineering, which is what we're talking about in this round of
notes) have never been and probably never will be formalized.

 > There is, as far as I can tell, no good theories of pragmatics  > that
are capable of being formalized. "Pragmatics", at least  > in linguistics
where I come from, is usually a sort of fuzzy  > "hand-waving" solution to
any hard problem, much as the terms  > "world-knowledge" and "common-sense"
knowledge are. Whenever  > I hear the word pragmatics I want to reach for my
axe  :)

Fuzzy hand-waving is generally bad, but it can be used to support any topic
whatever.  Just because something is covered with a veneer of formalism
doesn't mean it's good.  And just because some people have used a term while
waving their hands doesn't mean its bad.  (By that criterion, the SemWeb
would be bad.)

For an example of what good common sense and an intuitive feeling for
pragmatics can do, I suggest you compare the sales of Apple's iPod to
anything comparable that has come from Sony.

For an example of good pragmatics, I recommend John McCarthy's Elephant
paper, which I believe should have been required reading for anybody working
on the SemWeb:

That paper was one of the inspirations for a paper I published in 2002:
    Architectures for Intelligent Systems

The Flexible Modular Framework (FMF), which is described in that paper has
become the primary platform for developing and deploying everything we're
doing in our VivoMind company.  Compared to that, everything I've seen from
the SemWeb is legacy stuff that's trivial to deal with by importing it and
converting it to usable formats.

I'm perfectly happy to let the rest of the world suffer with RDF and OWL
because they just kill off any competition we might encounter.


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Received on Wednesday, 29 March 2006 21:06:16 UTC