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In foundational ontology, 4-dimensionalism is shorthand for a mathematical-philosophical basis for a rigorous global identity criterion based upon composition. It acquired this name as a vital part of the approach is treating individuals as extended in time as well as space, with two objects composed of the same spatio-temporal parts being considered identical. The opportunity this brings to data sharing and integration on a large scale (both within and across organizations) is that it introduces an increased level of rigour into the way we model the world. This in turn enables a step change in the consistency that it is possible to achieve in data which is critical to enable effective data sharing and integration.
Historically, some have claimed that 4-dimensionalism does not match with how we talk about the world in everyday terms, and this has led to claims it is counter-intuitive which has sometimes been a barrier to adoption.
However, recent years have seen some important advances in the 4-dimensional ecosystem, in how it fits into a wider information management landscape. This enables its exploitation, in improvements to the ways of talking about 4-dimensionalism to make it more approachable, to the formalisation of the foundations for 4-dimensionalism, to the grounding of a 4-dimensional ontology using a constructive approach. These are being brought together in the National Digital Twin Programme and the Information Management Framework at its heart.
So now is the time to take a fresh look at the 4-dimensional ecosystem - to see how it works and the potential it has to help deliver large scale data sharing and integration.