Saturday, November 19, 2005
ONTAC stands for Ontology and Taxonomy Coordinating Working Group
It is a working group of
Semantic Interoperability Community of Practice (SICoP)
 ß communication from John Sowa
communication on Whitehead’s process ontology by John Sowa à 
First, I have the greatest admiration for Dr John Sowa; however the issue that has arisen has to do with both honesty within the Semantic Web community and the use of taxpayer money by IT consulting firms.
A deeper issue arises regarding the consequences of the current control of all IT standards process. I have claimed that vested interests express power in such a fashion as to be absolutely known to all in the IT industry. This power is sufficient to have fired or not hired anyone who would suggest that the standards are wrong minded, scientifically ill-defined.
I have conducted a conversation with one of the working groups over the past two weeks in order to expose what the issues really are.
It is up to the Washington Post and other news media to report on this conversation if they feel that my request that they do so seems justified. The BCNGroup bead games are a type of web log; and contain a dozen of more similar conversations about the same issue.
The “false” representation of “all” IT standards processes, with ISO being the exception and OASIS being a partial exception, is that there is an open discussion and evaluation of a set of issues that are truthfully presented.
The “irrelevance”, that John Sowa is talking about, is a forced judgment motivated by powerful industries whose will is to pervert academic activity and to define a set of facts on the ground that deny principled discussion not consistent with the perceived interests of these powerful forces (those forces created by specific people who have great wealth).
The perceived interest is to control the behavior of the communication mechanisms that will support a future business AND political environment. There are specific individuals and specific organization dedicated to achieving this interest. The sums of money involved are in the tens of billions per year.
The ONTAC core mission is derived from the proper notion that electronic government will be the means through which the people of the United States interact with the government. The hijacking is that these powerful forces wish to control both the means of interacting with the government and the economic system. The Democracy is almost lost.
The notion that the behavior of all computer programs has to be precise and exact is not in line with reality. In the connectionist paradigm, such as artificial neural networks, the program is designed by the programmer to receive input in the form of unanticipated data patterns. From this input, program behavior occurs by the program that is not designed by the programmer.
The semantic extraction technology, that is my field of expertise, has the same property. The key point, ignored by the working groups, is that human in the loop interaction will cause the programs to behave in a fashion that is not anticipated by the programmer. This is what “loose coupling” means. Commerce can be over engineered in a way that cannot be fixed afterwards. We are at or beyond a critical point in human history, one that is effectively controlled by a process expressed through these IT standardization groups.
There are alternatives.
“The key benefits of this approach are (1) a separation of concerns between interaction (protocols) and local decisions making (policy); (2) reusability of protocols across processes; (3) evolution and refinement of processes by protocol composition; and (4) flexible process enactment that respects local policies while adopting continually.” 
The concepts expressed by this quote are inconsistent with the notion that the standards committees are to be the authority on how all computer programs work.
The notion that “hard coupled” computational systems should control the interactions of commerce, our politic expression, and our communication is being claimed. The claim is blatant, and the claim is enforced by exclusions of those who would state alternative viewpoints.
One alternative is to claim that ontology is to be regarded as a set of concept representations without logic .
From this viewpoint, the ontology is a set of abstractions to be used to produce ontological models – most of which are not equipped to “reason or think”. Even in engineered systems, the model does not “think” and produce judgments. Hilbert space models of engineered systems can be used to compute actual, determined, future states. Ontological models of living systems can be used to understand and communicate between humans information that is available.
The decision to change an appointment is left to the responsibility of the human, and not left in the control of a mechanism that is designed and built by standards committees.
Thus ontology can be used as a dictionary to serve the purpose of human communication. Web services are thought, or represented by members of the standards committees, to by responsive to human intent. If the viewpoint expressed in the quote above (foot note 1) is taken into account, then human computer programs can measure intent. We already have natural language to express intent. Natural language is a centuries old technology. Semantic extraction techniques allow humans to make an mapping to design abstractions and business protocols. This notion is available in the literatures, but is suppressed by the working group. A group developed a Roadmap for Semantic Technology Adoption. I organized this group in response to a contract supported by US Customs .
The use of the term “ontology” for machine translation dictionaries occurred in the late 1940s at Georgetown. The imposition of the notion of computing with ontological terms has been imposed on this deeper tradition, in spite of principled argument that computing in this way always leads to failure at unexpected and critical times. The scholarship on this point is extensive.
In the IT literature, the web services are almost always represented to go beyond mere data interoperability, which we already have except in cases due to non-interoperability by intentional design. Data interoperability has been possible for decades, and is not achieved due to designed non-interoperability by the same community that would have us believe that hard wired computer programs (running without human intervention) can provide the interoperability that is not available by design.
In “Web Services and Service-Oriented Architectures”, by Douglas Barry, he starts out with a scenario where by a traveling salesman’s complete schedule is computed by “web services” and then recomputed as things change in the world. Tim Berners-Lee’s famous article in Scientific America has web services making medical prescriptions. Computer mediated processes would support these types of activities, but not hard wired computational programs without iterated human interaction and community-based decision making.
It is a simple situation. Create new computer technology that is human centric and supports (standardized but open sets of concepts) mediated human communication, or create a control mechanism.
The effects of trying to engineer human communication and economic activity is to create a world that makes money for those who are part of the system (are members of the religion), but which continues the alienation of all those who do not pay into a membership.
The alternative is to support the BCNGroup’s call for a National Project. Such a Project would change the course of our development of information and communication systems. It would restore honesty to our behavior.
 Desai, N; Mallya, A U; Chopra, A K; Singh M P (to be published in Special Issue on Interaction and State-based Modeling, IEEE. “Interaction Protocols as Design Abstractions for Business Processes.
 Prueitt, Paul S. (1996a). Is Computation Something New?, published in the Proceedings of NIST Conference on Intelligent Systems: A Semiotic Perspective. Session: Memory, Complexity and Control in Biological and Artificial Systems. October 20-23. Also at http://www.bcngroup.org/area3/pprueitt/kmbook/Chapter2.htm