Posted:October 16, 2019

AI3 Pulse

” . . . in the next two-three years all mid-range and high-end chipsets [on smartphones] will get enough power to run the vast majority of standard deep learning models developed by the research community and industry. This, in turn, will result in even more AI projects targeting mobile devices as the main platform for machine learning model deployment.”

The authors, most from leading smartphone providers, note AI is already used in selected smartphones:

“Among the most popular tasks are different computer vision problems like image classification, image enhancement, image super-resolution, bokeh simulation, object tracking, optical character recognition, face detection and recognition, augmented reality, etc. Another important group of tasks running on mobile devices is related to various NLP (Natural Language Processing) problems, such as natural language translation, sentence completion, sentence sentiment analysis, voice assistants and interactive chatbots. Additionally, many tasks deal with time series processing, e.g., human activity recognition, gesture recognition, sleep monitoring, adaptive power management, music tracking and classification.” (inline reference numbers removed)

Expect to see greater ubiquity and deeper applications.

Ignatov, A. et al. AI Benchmark: All About Deep Learning on Smartphones in 2019. arXiv:1910.06663 [cs] 1–19 (2019).

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on October 16, 2019 at 10:59 am in Artificial Intelligence, Software Development | Comments (0)
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Posted:September 11, 2019

Dynamic Apps with KGs and OntologiesA Refinement of What We Call ODapps (Ontology-driven Applications)

In a recent article about knowledge graphs I noted that I tend to use the KG term interchangeably with the term ‘ontology‘. While this interchangeability is generally true when ontologies are used to model instance and class knowledge, in other words for knowledge representation (KR), it does overlook important cases when ontologies are themselves a specification for aspects such as access control, applications, or user interfaces. In these cases the ontology is less related to knowledge and more related to specifications or control. In such cases it is probably best to retain the distinction of an ontology from a knowledge graph (which I tend to think of as more oriented to content). I elaborate further on this distinction in this article.

What brought this distinction to mind was a recent post by Bob DuCharme on custom HTML forms to drive back-end SPARQL queries. The example Bob uses is getting a listing of cocktails from Wikidata given a specified ingredient. The example he provides uses Perl for a CGI (Common Gateway Interface) script. Bob has discussed generic SPARQL queries before; he features many useful Python examples in his excellent SPARQL book [1].

The basic idea is to provide values for variables entered via a Web page form to complete a patterned SPARQL query (SPARQL is the query language for RDF). The example Bob uses is to have the user enter a cocktail ingredient, which then returns all of the cocktails listed on Wikidata that contain that ingredient. The advantage of the idea is that users need know nothing about SPARQL or how to form a proper SPARQL query. By simply entering in missing information on a Web form or making other Web form choices (such as picking from a list or a radiobutton), all of the heavy lifting is done by the patterned SPARQL script in the background. Letting the Web forms provide the values for SPARQL variables is the key to the method.

We use this idea aggressively on, for example, our KBpedia Web site. By picking a search term from an auto-completed search listing [2] or picking a live link from that same page [3], we are able to re-use a fixed set of SPARQL query patterns to drive simple Web page templates. In our case, we use JavaScript to control the display and canvas and to invoke Clojure scripts that generate the SPARQL queries. (Over the years we have also used PHP and JavaScript directly to generate these queries. The point, as is made by DuCharme, is most any scripting language may be used for the backend.) You may inspect any of the sub-pages under the ‘Knowledge Graph‘ section on the site by using ‘View Page Source’. Sample Clojure code is also available for inspection to see how we have implemented the approach [4].

Ontology-driven Apps

This basic idea of patterned SPARQL queries forms the baseline for what we have been calling data-driven applications [5] for more than 10 years, when we first began experimenting with the approach and using it in early customer engagements. And our embrace of the idea is not the first. For example, in 1998, more than a decade before our own efforts, Guarino [6] was already talking of “ontology-driven” information systems and the use of ontologies for user interfaces. Still, ten years later, though Uschold was noting the same prospects, his survey of advances to that point showed little in actual development of ontologies “driving” applications [7].

It was roughly at that time that our own efforts began. One of our first realizations was that dynamic retrieval and presentation of data on a Web page only began the process. With the Web page as the medium of interaction, the idea of using interfaces to manage data became concrete. By organizing information into datasets and setting profiles for access and CRUD (create – read – update – delete) rights, an effective environment for data sharing and federation is established. We saw that we could abstract the complexity of the languages and specifications (SPARQL, RDF, and OWL) into the background, letting developers write the backend scripts, while letting the users and subject matter experts deal with updating, selecting and managing the content via Web front-ends.

Today, most approaches to semantic technologies and ontologies are still, unfortunately, rather static and fixed. Separate applications or IDEs are used to write and manage the ontologies. The ontologies are not generally subject to continuous upgrades and refinements, and end-users are the recipients, not the ‘drivers’ of the systems. But our early efforts showed how we could democratize this process, making updates and interactions dynamic.

With the embrace of CRUD, we also needed dynamic ways for changes made to the system — now codified and maintained in ontologies — to be reflected back to the user interfaces. We saw that a layer of specific Web services could both submit and query information to the ontology, and present those changes dynamically to scripts within the HTML user interfaces. (We also saw that access control to both data and applications needed to be imposed for enterprise uses, functions that can also be mediated by ontologies. Those topics are not discussed further here, but we have documented elsewhere [8]). Because the user interface was becoming the medium of interaction, it was also apparent that we needed to expand our use of labels in the ontologies. Thus, besides standard SKOS concepts like altLabels for node synonyms or prefLabels for preferred node labels, we also needed to accommodate labels for tooltips and labels that appear as titles or instructions on forms on user interfaces.

Once this rubicon of dynamic interfaces driven by ontologies is crossed, many new opportunities come to the fore. One opportunity, based on the idea of patterned information, is that different information in the ontology may lend itself to different display or visualization. For example, all location information may be displayed on a map as points, regions, or paths. Or, people and many objects may warrant displaying a picture if available. Or, numeric values over similar dimensions may lend themselves to charting. Or, ordered or unordered lists may warrant a listing display, or, when characterized by numeric values, by pie charts or other chart types.

These realizations led us to create a series of display and visualization components, the invoking of which may be triggered by the datatypes coming back in a results set initiated by a SPARQL query. The widget code for these display and visualization options may be served up by Web services in response to the characteristics in the results streams in a similar way we can serve up filtering, searching, browsing, import/export, or other functional widgets. In other words, the nature of the information in the ontology can inform what functions — including visualization — we can perform with a given results stream. (See, for example, any of the displays such as charts or maps for the Peg community indicator system built with our design for the United Way of Winnipeg.)

Another opportunity arises from the idea of a data record coming back in a results set. We see, for example, how the so-called ‘infoboxes’ in Wikipedia or on a Google search results page show us a suite of data attributes for a given entity. We see ‘people’ entities characterized by birth, death, parents, children, country of origin, occupation, and such. We see ‘automobile’ entities characterized by body type, brand, horsepower, year built, etc. These kinds of characterizations are patterned, too, and can begin to be organized into hierarchies and types.

Because of this patterned, structured nature of entity types, we can generalize our data display templates further. What if we detect our instance represents a camera but do not have a display template specific to cameras? Well, the ontology and simple inferencing can tell us that cameras are a form of digital or optical products, which more generally are part of a product concept, which more generally is a form of a human-made artifact, or similar. However, if more specific templates occur in the inference path, they will be preferentially used. Here is a sample of such a path:

Thing
Product
Camera
Digital Camera
SLR Digital Camera
Olympus Evolt E520

At the ultimate level of a particular model of Olympus camera, its display template might be exactly tailored to its specifications and attributes.

This design is meant to provide placeholders for any ‘thing’ in any domain, while also providing the latitude to tailor and customize to every ‘thing’ in the domain. By tracing this inferencing chain from the specific to the more general we can ‘fall back’ until a somewhat OK display template is discovered, even in the absence of the better and more specific one. Then, if we find we are trying to display information on cameras frequently, we only need take one of the more general, parent templates and specifically modify it for the desired camera attributes. We also keep presentation separate from data so that the styling and presentation mode of these templates is also freely modifiable.

Coming to a Generalized Understanding

Within a couple of years of first working with this approach we came to have a more generalized understanding of what we call ‘ODapps’ [9]. We modularized the ontologies to separate the information (what is now called the ‘knowledge graph’) from the specifications of the semantic components. We also enhanced the label constructs in the KG to handle user interface labels and related. I have slightly updated the workflow we showed for this process back in 2011:

Dynamic Apps Animation

(click for full size)

The basic process begins when the user interacts with various semantic components embedded in the layout of the Web page. Once the user interacts with these various components, new queries are generated (most often as SPARQL queries) in the background to the various Web services endpoints, which are specific to either management or display functions. The first consequence of the query is to generate a results set of data from the knowledge graph. At the same time, the datatypes of the results inform a components ontology that produces a schema useful to the display widgets. This schema constitutes the formal instructions to the semantic components on the Web page. When this schema is combined with the results set data, the new instructions for the semantic components on the Web page are complete. Here is an example schema:

(click for full size)

These instructions are then presented to the various semantic components, and determine which widgets (individual components, with multiples possible depending on the inputs) need to be invoked and displayed on the layout canvas. As new user interactions occur with the resulting displays and components, the iteration cycle is generated anew, starting a new cycle of queries and results sets. Importantly, as these pathways and associated display components get created, they can be named and made persistent for later re-use or within dashboard invocations. In this way, the user interactions may act as a form of recorder for later automatic playback of the interaction choices.

A New Dynamic Paradigm for User Apps

ODapps are thus a balanced abstraction within the framework of canonical architectures, data models and data structures. Under this design, software developer time is focused on creating the patterned scripts that underlie the Web page layouts, developing the semantic component widgets, and writing the functional Web services. Users and subject matter experts can concentrate on doing analysis and keeping the ontologies and knowledge graph accurate and up-to-date. This design thus limits software brittleness and maximizes software re-use. Moreover, it shifts the locus of effort from software development and maintenance to the creation and modification of knowledge structures.

This new paradigm began with the simple observation that Bob DuCharme demonstrates that we can use SPARQL queries driven by users in a Web page form to get relevant information back to the user. We have taken this simple premise and have — over the past nearly ten years — expanded it to be a more generalized approach to ontology-driven apps, or ODapps. We have also continued to talk about how we may modularize our ontology architectures for a breadth of enterprise purposes [10].

Yet, while we have prototyped these capabilities and have demonstrated them within our own customer engagements, this general approach is by no means common.

Perhaps now, with the resurgent interest in knowledge graphs, we can finally see our way clear to a suite of semantic approaches that promise a revolution in software design practices and the democratization of information technologies. Through the ODapp approach, we believe that customers can see:

  • Reduced development times — producing software artifacts that are closer to how we think, combined with reuse and automation that enables applications to be developed more quickly
  • Re-use — abstract/general notions can be used to instantiate more concrete/specific notions, allowing more reuse
  • Increased reliability — formal constructs with automation reduces human error
  • Decreased maintenance costs — increased reliability and the use of automation to convert models to executable code reduces errors. A formal link between the models and the code makes software easier to comprehend and thus maintain.

As I have noted before, these first four items are similar to the benefits that may accrue from other advanced software engineering methodologies, though with some unique twists due to the semantic basis. However, Uschold [7] also goes on to suggest benefits for ontology-based approaches not claimed by other methodologies:

  • Reduced conceptual gap — application developers can interact with the tools in a way that is closer to their thinking
  • Facilitate automation — formal structures are amenable to automated reasoning, reducing the load on the human, and
  • Agility/flexibility — ontology-driven information systems are more flexible, because you can more easily and reliably make changes in the model than in code.

So, as practiced today, most uses of ontologies are for knowledge representation, and in that sense we may use the terms ‘knowledge graph’ and ‘ontologies’ more-or-less interchangeably. However, taken to its logical extent and embraced for driving software specifications, we see the term of ‘ontology’ as much more general and powerful. Like I have said before, the meaning of these terms is intimately related to their context of use.


[1] Bob DuCharme, Learning SPARQL: Querying and Updating with SPARQL 1.1, Second Edition, 2013, O’Reilly Media, 386 pp.
[2] From this URI, for example, http://kbpedia.org/knowledge-graph/reference-concept/?uri=Mammal, begin typing into the upper right search box and then picking one of the suggested auto-completion terms.
[3] For example, picking the ‘amniote’ link (http://kbpedia.org/knowledge-graph/reference-concept/?uri=Amniote) from the lower left Broader Concepts text box.
[4] To see an example of JS code calling the Clojure routines see http://kbpedia.org/entity/browse/js/browse-entities.js. Then, look for the Clojure call noted ‘nb-entities’. You can see the actual Clojure routines under this same name in the sample http://www.mkbergman.com/wp-content/themes/ai3v2/files/2019Posts/named_entities.clj file. (This sample file contains other functions to clean up input strings, for example. Also note that most Clojure code used by the system is not available for inspection.)
[5] Our series on this topic began with the article, M.K. Bergman, “Concepts and an Introduction to the Occasional Series on ‘Ontology Best Practices for Data-driven Applications,’ AI3:::Adaptive Information blog, May 12, 2009, and continued with a more detailed discussion in M.K. Bergman, “Ontologies as the ‘Engine’ for Data-Driven Applications,” AI3:::Adaptive Information blog, June 10, 2009. The later article introduced the ideas of data-driven displays and user interfaces based on ontologies specifically enhanced to include those specifications.
[6] Nicola Guarino, “Formal Ontology and Information Systems,” in Proceedings of FOIS’98, Trento, Italy, June 6-8, 1998. Amsterdam, IOS Press, pp. 3-15; see http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.29.1776&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
[7] Michael Uschold, “Ontology-Driven Information Systems: Past, Present and Future,” in Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Formal Ontology in Information Systems (FOIS 2008), 2008, Carola Eschenbach and Michael Grüninger, eds., IOS Press, Amsterdam, Netherlands, pp 3-20; see http://mba.eci.ufmg.br/downloads/recol/FormalOntologyinInformationSystems2008.pdf.
[8] M.K. Bergman, “structWSF: A Framework for Collaboration Networks,” AI3:::Adaptive Information blog, July 7, 2009.
[9] M.K. Bergman, “Ontology-Driven Apps Using Generic Applications,” AI3:::Adaptive Information blog, March 7, 2011.
[10] M.K. Bergman, “An Ontologies Architecture for Ontology-driven Apps ,” AI3:::Adaptive Information blog, December 5, 2011.

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on September 11, 2019 at 6:58 am in Adaptive Innovation, Ontologies, Software Development | Comments (2)
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Posted:September 5, 2019

A Knowledge Representation PractionarySelected Chapters from A Knowledge Representation Practionary Now Available in Author’s Version

Selected chapters from my new book, A Knowledge Representation Practionary, are now available for free download. The chapters include the preface, introduction, second chapter, and conclusion, as well as all three book appendices. I will be releasing further chapters for free over time.

These versions are my author’s complete versions before final editing and formatting by Springer. Though I liked the idea of being selected by a major publisher, I was quite disappointed at the high price point picked by Springer for the hardback book. I am new to the publishing game, but will not make the mistake again of having my work placed behind unscalably high price walls. My articles on this blog have been free from Day One and I only tried advertising for a very short period of time. Information is meant to be accessed and used, not sequestered behind paywalls. No author of a specialty book, as is mine, should expect to make any meaningful royalties. The objective should be to be read, not become rich.

These author’s versions are essentially the same as what is in the final, published product. I do ask, however, if you cite them that you refer to the official Springer version. Here is a link to a sample chapter reference in various metadata formats.

Springer subscribers still have free access to the official version of the book in PDF form and for $25 can obtain a softcover, printed version. However, for all others, please refer to my standard AKRP page for updates on additional free chapters.

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on September 5, 2019 at 3:39 am in A Knowledge Representation Practionary | Comments (0)
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Posted:August 5, 2019

US EPA LogoFirst-ever EPA Paper Finally Gets Attention

Boy, talk about being a little bit ahead of the parade! The Scientific American blog by Robert McLachlan recently showcased a paper I wrote with Kan Chen and Dick Winter forty years ago [1]. The paper, “Carbon Dioxide from Fossil Fuels: Adapting to Uncertainty,” was the first commissioned by the US Environmental Protection Agency on global warming. The paper was one of the products from a major study called the Coal Technology Assessment (CTA) [2], for which I was then the project manager. The paper was drawn from the first position paper on global warming within the US Environmental Protection Agency [3], also prepared by the CTA. (I believe there had been earlier government reports at NOAA, but this was the first for the EPA.)

The Scientific American piece features some major quotes from the paper and gives it more attention than it ever received when released. The SA piece lauds our paper for having highlighted the tragedy of the commons nature of problems like global warming. While I think that angle is useful, I remember the paper more for its common-sense approach to policymaking for problems with both high degrees of uncertainty and great potential for adverse impact. The sad truth of the paper is that it received very little attention inside or outside the agency — in fact, MacLachlan notes it “bombed” — with only four contemporaneous citations.

I spent five years of my life working on the CTA, the last with my good friend Bob Dykes, and we produced what I think was some awfully good and often prescient work. We skewered the idea of the greater use of coal in industrial boilers, conducted the first net energy analysis of complete end-use energy trajectories, noted the importance of better conservation standards for homes and appliances, foresaw a near-term future of natural gas abundance, emphasized the importance of trace metals pollution from coal, rejected the idea of synfuels from coal ever being economic, and saw the most likely avenues for future coal use to lie in metallurgy and in well-controlled electric power plants. Unfortunately, most all of our dozen or so reports were suppressed by the agency because we pissed off either the Carter or Reagan administrations, over which our project study straddled. The energy crises of those times led to very strange politics and political reactions. I guess maybe some things never change.

Hearing of the treatment of our CO2 paper by SA has caused me to think about revisiting some of those old CTA findings. Our mandate for the Coal Technology Assessment was to “assess the technological, cultural, economic and social impacts of the greatly increased use of coal over the next 50 years,” to the year 2030. We are now 80% of the way through that forecast horizon, probably far enough along to judge how well we did. (Pretty well from my vantage point!) Maybe I can get to that appraisal before the forecast horizon is past.

BTW, you can also get the original paper outside the pay firewall. But, please: Do not let the subsequent story of no action and time lost depress you too much.


[1] K. Chen, R. C. Winter, and M. K. Bergman, “Carbon Dioxide from Fossil Fuels: Adapting to Uncertainty,” Energy Policy, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 318–330, Dec. 1980.
[2] K. Chen, A. N. Christakis, R. S. Davidson, R. P. Hansen, and K. Kawamura, “An Integrated Approach to Coal-Based Energy Technology Assessment in the United States and the International Implications,” IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, vol. 8, no. 11, pp. 822–829, Nov. 1978.
[3] M. K. Bergman, “Atmospheric Pollution: Carbon Dioxide,” Strategic Analysis Group, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA 600/8 80 003, Jul. 1980.

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on August 5, 2019 at 8:54 am in Pulse, Site-related | Comments (0)
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Posted:July 24, 2019

AI3 Pulse

I would like to thank Andreas Blumauer of the Semantic Web Company and the SEMANTiCS Conference for their recent interview with me. The questions covered the waterfront of topics related to knowledge representation and semantic artificial intelligence. The emphasis was on my recent book, A Knowledge Representation Practionary, the polymath who stimulated that book, Charles Sanders Peirce, and our open-source KBpedia knowledge graph and base. 

Andreas, who conducted the interview, is always good at teasing out where people think the industry and technology are headed. This interview was no exception. Knowledge graphs and their emerging role in knowledge-based AI have been common themes across multiple recent conferences.

I’d also like to thank Alan Morrison for his keynote at the prior 2018 conference, and his kind mention of our work. Alan and Andreas are two of the most effective spokespeople around for the practical trends currently shaping our industry.

There are rumors that the SEMANTiCS conference may be coming to North America in 2020. Let’s hope the organizers see fit to continue to spread their wonderful meeting to our side of the pond.

You can see my interview in full here.