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Re: Working without being ambushed by Ambiguity

From: Graham Klyne <GK@ninebynine.org>
Date: Sat, 22 Jun 2013 12:25:53 +0100
Message-ID: <51C589C1.3090705@ninebynine.org>
To: Larry Masinter <masinter@adobe.com>
CC: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>, Tim Berners-Lee <timbl@w3.org>, David Booth <david@dbooth.org>, "www-archive@w3.org" <www-archive@w3.org>

(This has been sitting in my in-box for way too long. Sorry!)

Broadly, I agree with what you say about trust being a prior requirement for 
sound inference, and that for many purposes trust and ambiguity may be inseparable.

In many cases, I think that trust is implied by the context of use, and that 
this corresponds to the "99% of the time" that I can ignore trust.  In this, I 
see no difference to any other data processing application.  Having made a 
decision to perform a computation and do something with the results, there's an 
implication that the inputs are worth processing.  GIGO applies.

For me, it's having a "way to represent and talk about contextualization" that 
allows trust and ambiguity to be treated explicitly, either as part of a 
computation, or as part of a separate process of deciding what inputs are 
appropriate to the purpose of a computation.

In this, I'm not seeing any fundamental disagreement with what you say.  What I 
perceive is that having as way to contextualize RDF statements, and process the 
RDF accordingly, provides a framework within which a theory of speech acts might 
also be accommodated.

In this, I think I'm also in agreement with what David said in response to your 


On 30/01/2013 16:01, Larry Masinter wrote:
>> For me, there are several intertwined issues here, in no particular order:
>> - context
>> - ambiguity
>> - vagueness
>> - sound inference
>> - modalities (? - I mean conflicting or differing interpretations in a common
>> discourse)
>> What we *have* in the present model theoretic approach is sound inference.
>> In particular, with RDF, the idea that the RDF merge of two (or more) graphs is
>> true under exactly the interpretations that make the original graphs true.  I
>> think this is a key necessity (but not sufficiency) for combining and remixing
>> data on the web through automated processing, and of itself represents an
>> important step forwards from what we had before.  I'm reluctant to let that go.
> I think you can only keep "sound inference" after you've done some kind of
> Trust transformation, where the semantics of responses to requests are
> Initially posited to not be available for combining and remixing before they
> have been explicitly accepted as trustworthy.
> I see no point in distinguishing between ambiguous assertions and untrustworthy
> ones, and I like having a model where trusting is an explicit part of the interface.
>> Along with this, I think vagueness is somewhat covered by a Quine-like appeal
>> to consideration of statements that people broadly accept as true, if one doesn't
>> get too hung up on exactly *what* is denoted by individual terms, just
>> accepting that they have denotations that satisfy certain properties.
>> I think that ambiguity of the kind that permits Herbrand style models is
>> something that we should just ignore - it seems to me that trying to exclude
>> this kind of ambiguity in the formal structures leads to the kind of tar-pit
>> we've been wading in.
>> I *think*, BICBW, the last two points somewhat reflect what Tim was trying to
>> say in his original "without being ambushed by Ambiguity" - so to that extent
>> we
>> may agree.
>> But what we don't have is a satisfactory, easy to follow story that covers
>> context and modality (if "modality" is the right word to use here).  Which would
>> (should) extend to topics like "slander".
>> Here, I fear we're being let down by the RDF working group.  They have agreed
>> a structure, RDF Datasets, that is capable of encoding such ideas, but seem
>> unable to come to a consensus on how to provide semantic underpinning for using this
>> structure.  IMO, *any* semantic underpinning would be better than none -
>> without it, we're back in the mess we had figuring reification last time round.  (What I
>> was hoping for is *not* a definitive "this is what datasets mean", but a
>> framework within which one could construct semantics for datasets without
>> fear that the ground would later shift.)  There have been several proposals, and at
>> least two that I'm aware of in the life of the current RDF group - including
>> Pat's RDF as context logic - any (or most) of which could serve.
>> (Personally, I liked the proposal that was made, and apparently rejected, a
>> month or so ago
>> (http://www.w3.org/2011/rdf-wg/wiki/TF-Graphs/Minimal-dataset-
>> semantics).  I
>> have the impression, maybe wrong, that Pat's context logic approach was a bit
>> more constrained, but still flexible enough to support a useful range of
>> modalities.)
>> Given this much, we would have some basis for actually talking about (or
>> representing) some of the tricky issues that are so hard to discuss in the
>> current "one interpretation to rule them all" view of RDF (and URIs).  We could
>> propose structures that capture belief, provenance (which I come to see can
>> itself be highly contextual), disagreement, debate, conditionality, and so much
>> more.  Maybe then we also have a framework for encoding the theory of
>> speech
>> acts, etc?
>> If we have a way to represent and talk about contextualization, then I think the
>> whole issue of a URI having different interpretations in different contexts (or
>> applications) is something we can accommodate.  That is, it allows us to set out
>> without a presumption of global meaning, yet still exploit the commonalities
>> we can observe.   Within RDF as we currently have it, we're forced to go "out of
>> band", and that makes it hard to really understand each other's difficulties.
>> ...
>> As for "attrition", I don't think we're dealing with a belligerent enemy here.
>> But I do feel like I'm on the rough edge of the grindstone here.  For the most
>> part, I can ignore this stuff in my daily work with RDF:  99% of the time it
>> seems it just doesn't matter.  But I fear if we don't build on sound foundations
>> then sooner or later things will start to crumble.  I care if that's the case,
>> but a lot less than I care about a lot of other things, so my forays into this
>> arena will be of limited energy.  Maybe that's for the best.
>> #g
> The problem with "for the most part, for 99% of the time, I can ignore
> trust" is that you don't know which 1% of cases you can't. And if you
> can't distinguish in advance between situations where you can trust
> the results and situations when you can, then you basically have to
> distrust everything.
Received on Saturday, 22 June 2013 12:04:15 UTC

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