The perennial fear revealed by a rules engine

When seeking to attain mastery of rules engines (RE), you will experience an odd phenomenon. Others, upon hearing some details of your course of study, will react in a what initially appears to be a manner angrily dismissive of the topic itself. This is strange given the fundamental role that computation plays in literally everything we do, from a manifest perspective, with hardware computers, organic computers, and other.

Upon further interaction, and reflection, it quickly becomes apparent what motivates this reaction is fundamentally, the re-experience of a long inaccessible, perennial fear.
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Ontological Management with Protege OWL and Jess

Part of my quest to learn more about rules-engines involved the desire to find a really good approach for knowledge management. The short story is that when you work with a subject matter expert (SME), you need to find some good way to capture the domain data and behavior, the rules, actions, and everything else necessary to make sense of things. This need isn’t unique to knowledge engineering and AI, of course, all engineers face it, especially software engineers. Object-oriented analysis and design is one good approach, and there seems to be a lot of overlap. One interesting outcrop of the need is the Insurance Application Architecture, an OO model (and more) to help insurance companies manage their intellectual assets.

The client developed a custom tool to manage the concepts (although customizable tools like MagicDraw certainly are an option, too), and I had always wondered if there was some standard way of approaching that kind of problem. While researching rules-engines I was delighted to learn about knowledge engineering, the semantic web, and consequently ontological engineering and management.

Specifically, digging into the tool Protege-OWL, I found something quite similar to what I’d seen developed as custom. Although it is too soon to say they are equivelant, it is pretty interesting to find out. The fact that there is a Jess plugin (JessTab) to let you play, even better!

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