What is ontology?

In computer science, the term ontology describes an area for the unambiguous representation and communication of knowledge in this field. In addition to a uniform terminology, this knowledge also includes the use of relationships, hierarchies, rules and terms.

The Aim of an ontology in computer science is aimed at ensuring the clear and Clear provision of information and knowledge without room for interpretation through this "common language". The implementation of this network of relationships in this sub-area takes place primarily in information systems, artificial intelligence and in Databases Application.

As early as the beginning of the 1990s, the concept of ontology was used in connection with the artificial intelligence and from there it spread to many areas of computer science.

Term development

Your Ontology has its origins in philosophy, where it refers to the "doctrine of being".. Also in the definition of terms in the philosophical sense, one of the questions asked is how so-called entities (this describes a being or a concrete or abstract object) can be categorised or related to each other. Often the term metaphysics is used synonymously with ontology. The term metaphysics goes back to the Greek philosopher Aristotle and describes, according to the definition of the term, that "something" that comes after physics.

On the basis of this definitional space, questions arise about being, nothingness, finiteness and infinity, among others, which are also considered in all religions. In addition to Aristotle, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant also dealt extensively with metaphysics. While the term has its origins in philosophy, other scientific disciplines, such as psychology, sociology and medicine, are increasingly becoming aware of it in their research.

Examples for ontologies

An example of the application of knowledge representation in computer science is the so-called Semantic Web is the idea of the World Wide Web. This idea from World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee is based on extending the conventional World Wide Web so that the meaning and significance of information can be clearly assigned.

A further background to this endeavour is to Facilitate communication or work between people and machines. In addition to the implementation of uniform rules, data models and syntax, the development of the ontology language Web Ontology Language (OWL) also provided a remedy. A concrete application example is the unambiguous and conflict-free meaning of the word "Washington" in the respective context. Since Washington, in addition to a city, can also represent a federal state, a name or a warship, among other things, a more detailed definition is necessary.

Another possible application for ontology in computer science is in the field of artificial intelligence and is used primarily for Machine-interpretable knowledge representation. With the help of the normalisation, rules and specifications of the ontology, an inference machine can draw logical conclusions.

In medicine, for example, it is found in the Gene Ontology Application. The aim is to provide and further develop databases that provide uniform information on the function of genes in biomedicine.

In the field of psychology, the representation of relations is particularly important in the sub-area of the Psychosociology widespread. With the help of these, attempts are made to grasp and categorise social phenomena such as groups, families, bonds, but also personalities with uniform terms, or to describe interactions.

Differences with taxonomy and epistemology

Ontology vs. taxonomy

While an ontology focuses on the network of connections and relations, a taxonomy describes structured hierarchical relationships. The term taxonomy is derived from the ancient Greek and translates as law of order. Taxonomy originated in the natural sciences and is still used extensively there to describe races, genera and orders. Taxonomy is also used in computer science to represent hierarchical relationships and inheritance.

Ontology vs. epistemology

The term epistemology also comes from ancient Greek and describes the teaching of science. Epistemology is often also paraphrased as epistemology and raises the question of how knowledge comes about and how knowledge is justified. While epistemology deals with the basic acquisition of knowledge, ontology focuses on the nature of being or reality.