Building the semantic web (was: MIME-RPC (was Re: REST))

Russell Turpin
Thu, 17 Jan 2002 15:45:04 +0000

>>Maybe we can get Doug Lenat to do this:
>>   <anything xmlns:world=''>
>>     ..
>>   </anything>

Jeff Bone:
>You're trolling, aren't you R? ..

In this instance, you can blame my dry humor. But since
you're into the fray ..

>Sigh.  Let's try again.  Ontologies are generally post facto, ephemeral, 
>subjective for *most* "knowledge." ..

Well .. that's partly right. Philosophically, I'm a
nominalist. I don't believe there are ontologies "out
there" for us to find. There is some pretty strong
psychological evidence that there are certain
ontologies that we seem pre-conditioned to use, at
least as a stepping stone in learning language. But
that doesn't mean they have any fundamental priority,
nor do they prevent us from getting our head around
other ontologies. So if this is what you mean by
"subjective," I'm all with you.

I think you're wrong, though, when you say that
ontologies are emphemeral. Once created, they tend
to stick around. As do categories. People STILL use
the word "fish" in the sense that includes whales.
It would be very useful, to someone researching
ancient medical theories, if some future search
engine could recognize the uses of "fire" as one of
the four essential elements.

Cyc actually handles this in a rather good fashion.
All ontologies and categories are part of micro-
theories. Philosophically, Cyc is also a nominalist,
and is designed to accept arbitrary new ontologies.
Of course, it's not very good at identifying them
from small context. I can write:

  "The men who deciphered the coil of life
  competed with fire in their bellies."

The average college graduate instantly knows what coil,
does not confuse it with Shakespeare's, and knows the
sense of "fire," confusing it neither with oxidation
exothermically creating the heat that sustains its own
reaction, nor with GRD. But I was just teasing about
making an XML namespace from Cyc's continually
expanding ontologies.

On the other hand, I sometimes think that what we really
need in searching is to create signatures and search on
the basis of story elements. But that's another thread.

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