URGENT: train wreck coming, action needed. (was: Fwd: URI-CG group chartered)

(Im CCing this to people outside the RDF Core WG as the issue is much 
larger than just for RDF.  Please be selective in CCing replies in 
order to avoid cross-list postings, thanks. -Pat)

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>From: Graham Klyne <gk@ninebynine.org>
>Subject: URI-CG group chartered
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>FYI, the URI CG is now officially chartered.
>   URI Coordination Group
>   http://www.w3.org/2001/12/URI/
>"The mission of this group is to coordinate ongoing work in the area of
>Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs); to serve as a coordinating body of
>all issues involving URIs in the W3C and act as the coordinating body
>for URI issues with other groups.
>Back in the mists of 2002, I volunteered to act as RDFcore liaison 
>for this group.
>As yet, there's been little activity.  It might be worth noting that 
>Roy Fielding is working on a revision to RFC2396 (version available 
>at: http://www.apache.org/~fielding/uri/rev-2002/rfc2396bis.html).
>The IETF URI BOF (a week or so ago) also had some discussion or IRIs.
>There were a couple of things raised at the IETF meeting that may be 
>of relevance to RDFcore:
>(1) a suggestion that "resources" don't exist unless a URI is 
>defined for them.  (I raised an objection to this --because we have 
>bnodes-- which was somewhat brushed aside with "If RDF has a problem 
>with URIs its RDF's problem not URI's problem.  Since the matter is 
>more philosophical than of practical import, I don't think it's a 
>big deal.)

But this IS a VERY big deal, and we should raise hell about it, and 
not stop raising hell until this idea is abandoned. This decision 
would be a disaster not just for RDF but for almost any web logic. It 
would force all web logics to treat resources as temporal entities 
which come into existence at a time (and maybe go out of existence 
and reappear later). This plays havoc with ALL quantified logics, not 
just RDF.  It effectively makes all current mechanical reasoners 
invalid (since they all use, one way or another, the principles 
underlying existential quantification.) It also plays havoc with all 
semantics for NL dialog and just about everything else.  It would 
drive a truck through all assertional datatyping and most attempts to 
do syntax layering (such as the OWL/RDF mappings and any future 
son-of-OWL/RDF mappings.) It is not just an obscure philosophical 
niggle: it is absolutely fundamental.

For one (tiny) example of the trouble it would cause, try making 
sense of this idea in the context of a URI scheme for identifying 
dates and times. If nobody has perviously mentioned 3.48 am on the 
24th of February, 1865, does that date suddenly come into existence 
at the time someone one first mentions it with a URI? What if someone 
has mentioned the year 1865? Did that particular year have a 
minute-length hole in it, which has just gotten filled in? Don't 
laugh when your temporal reasoner figures out that you don't need to 
get to the airport until a minute after the flight leaves.

This group needs to pay some serious attention to what it is talking 
about. Fielding's draft cited above repeats verbatim the extremely 
grandiose and rather wooly text from RFC 2369 claiming that 
'resources' are anything that can possibly exist, on the web or off 
it.  It is irrational and incoherent to assert this and also treat 
resources as though they were datastructures or computational 
constructs of some kind.  If the group's attitude to issues like this 
is that these are just philosophical niggles of no real consequence, 
then the best thing this group could do would be to disband itself 
before it does more harm, or at the very least try co-opting someone 
who knows something about what the issues are here. URIs are too 
important to be left to syntactical engineers.

Pat Hayes

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Received on Friday, 4 April 2003 16:07:53 UTC