Ontolog Forum

Michael DeBellis

I'm currently retired. I was a consultant (Accenture, Deloitte Consulting, and Thoughtworks) and did research and advanced development as well as manage various software development projects utilizing agile methods, web technology, object-oriented technology, and rules. I was the Principal Investigator on Knowledge Based Software Assistant research projects that Accenture did for the USAF at their Center for Strategic Technology Research in Chicago. I also worked at the Information Sciences Institute and developed applications using Loom which was a classification based language prior to OWL.

I'm interested in applications of OWL and Semantic Web to business problems such as modeling large business domains for system integration, knowledge management, and development of AI semantic web systems.

My current work though is much more theoretical. I've been using OWL to model the domain of human ethics. This is based on research that was inspired by Chomsky's approach to language, taking the same approach to human ethics. People such as Marc Hauser have proposed the idea of a Universal Moral Grammar (UMG) as something that is part of the human genome in the same way as Universal Grammar is hypothesized as part of the genome that enables the Language Faculty. I've developed an OWL model that to my knowledge is the first formal model of a UMG. I've written one paper so far that hasn't been published:

The ontology that is in that paper is very basic. The latest version is much more complex and includes SWRL rules to define decision procedures for various ethical systems such as Moral Foundations Theory (Jonathan Haidt), Rawls theory of justice, and basic utilitarianism as defined by Sam Harris and others. I'm currently writing a new version of the unpublished paper that goes into this more detailed description of how it can model diverse ethical systems.

I'm also working on a second paper that talks about the UMG as an example of what people in Evolutionary Psychology call cognitive domain modules. One of the interesting results of building the ethics model was that I had to define a model of agents, actions, beliefs, etc. This is an example of what the ev-psych people call a Theory of Mind module and is also the first attempt to formally model such a cognitive domain. There is a good overview book of collected papers on the idea of cognitive domain modules in general: Mapping the Mind: Domain Specificity in Cognition and Culture by Lawrence Hirschfeld and Susan Gelman. This book describes various cognitive modules for agency, causation, ethics, physical objects, etc. My research is in this tradition and is the first attempt to model some of these domains formally.

However, I'm still very interested in the Semantic Web in general and more practical applications such as intelligent agents, NLP, and integration of large data repositories and systems.