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   Re: local, global (was various ontology, RDF, topic maps)

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  • From: "W. E. Perry" <wperry@fiduciary.com>
  • To: XML DEV <xml-dev@lists.xml.org>
  • Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000 02:22:44 -0500

Uche Ogbuji wrote:

> Hmm.  I disagree.  I think Henry Ford effectively scatched the idea that
> there is value in reinventing the wheel, within the scope of his
> operation.  Since then there have been many all-american examples of
> effective, capitalist commerce without wheel re-invention.

Rather than request those examples, let me ask you (and this web-published list) if
you would feel the same satisfaction with the finality of  Bill Paley's or David
Sarnoff's 'wheel' as you apparently do with Henry Ford's. Surely the promulgators of
commercial broadcasting conglomerates would find little value in reinventing the
wheel which they have perfected. Yet our daily choice of this forum for what may be
our best or most thoughtful work indicates that we believe there is a place for a
very distinct alternative. There are also, of course, electric car evangelists and
mass transit zealots and other stripes of opinion which would take equally strong
exception to blithely accepting Henry Ford's product (and the ontological structure
and epistemological viewpoint it embodies) as the final word in its own domain.

Recall that Martin Bryan said:
Here in Europe we are trying to create a Single Market. The problem is that this
single market is multilingual and multi-industry. CEN/ISSS has groups working on
ontologies for engineering, medical supplies, furniture manufacture, shoes, ... There
are significant amounts of overlap in these ontologies, but no knowledge of what each
other has done or is doing. Trying to get them to stop reinventing the wheel is a
real problem.

Personally, I can think of no method more likely to produce a new and unexpected
insight--and out of it, some new best practice--than that multiple simultaneous
reinvention of the wheel (nor any more certain to suppress a potential innovation
than blind service to the first principle of a Single Market, or of any other One
True Way). Indeed Martin Bryan's formulation, above, would be difficult to improve on
as a statement of the totalitarian pole in the spectrum of opinion regarding the
proper organization of complex systems. I prefer the foederal approach, and at the
heart of the foederal approach are statements of the process by which the foederated
nodes execute specific tasks:  which does what, and in what order. The detail of
effecting each step is realized at the individual node, and there is significant
latitude for the idiosyncratic accomplishment of it. The fundamental mechanism of
adaptability and growth for the system as a whole is that the nodes, without
externally mandated changes at any of them, may be recombined in new aggregations
with new order of process to accomplish utterly different ends.

So yes, Uche, I unquestionably prefer choice one over choice two. Choice one responds
to each new problem (indeed, where necessary each new instance of each new problem)
with the advantages of adaptation at the level of each node as well as at the level
of the overall order of process, which defines the system as a whole. Choice two
relies on the authoritative fiat of a canonical solution. Whence derives this
authority? I dunno. In the case of choice one, the authority is qui fit--it derives
from the adaptable node within the adaptable system responding successfully to the
new and unexpected problem as it is encountered.


Walter Perry


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