Semantic Web Ontologies: What Works and What Doesn’t

Here’s a beautiful paper on Semantic Web Ontologies. The author makes very well the point that most people have gotten by now: ontologies can only have a very limited appeal outside laboratories. If you can include marriage or terrorist in an ontology, then you can’t really do very much outside a very limited scope.

In fact, getting to write ontologies for other people is very much similar to controlling language as in the famous novel 1984 because unlike natural language, ontologies are very limited semantically.

Are the people I’m talking about terrorists or freedom fighters? What’s the definition of patriot? What’s the definition of marriage? Just defining these kinds of ontologies when you’re talking about these kinds of political questions rather than about part numbers; this becomes a political statement. People get killed over less than this. These are places where ontologies are not going to work.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

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