Page Created: 11/3/2015   Last Modified: 4/28/2016   Last Generated: 12/11/2017
"The total accumulation of all knowledge spanning the 28 known galaxies is embedded in the crystals which I have sent along with you."
--Jor-El, Superman (1978).
When any group of people "curate" knowledge, they fall into one of two categories: teachers or gatekeepers. Teachers disseminate knowledge, gatekeepers protect it. Many people are a combination of the two, more teacher than gatekeeper, more gatekeeper than teacher.
Most teachers will disseminate knowledge freely, but only in a way that ensures the protection of the knowledge. Some gatekeepers will allow you inside their gates, as long as you don't destroy their position as gatekeeper. Some gatekeepers rarely leave their post.
But what destroys knowledge?
For the Universe, nothing. According to many physicists, information cannot be destroyed. But for temporal beings like us, in the blink of an eye, it can become lost for millions or billions of years. Knowledge is related to the order of information in Time and Space. Since we are always moving forward in Time and the Universe does not exactly repeat itself, like tiny Kal-El in his spacecraft on his way to earth, we are peeking out tiny windows of the Mercury spacecraft flying past the the greatest library ever constructed. What we remember is brilliant Crystal, what we can't is blackened pitch. To refuse to look out that window is to live in ignorance, to cover that beautiful window with pitch.
The first manned spacecraft launched in April 12, 1961, Russia's Vostok 3KA capsule #3, piloted by Yuri Gagarin, had windows, one of them huge, but the first manned spacecraft for the United States, Mercury capsule #7, piloted by astronaut Alan Shepard three weeks later, only had two tiny portholes for an awkward periscope. As depicted in the film The Right Stuff, the US astronauts demanded that a window be installed, and by their second flight, the Mercury capsule #11, piloted by Gus Grissom had a large window. Note that the US didn't actually orbit the earth like Gagarin until John Glenn flew an Atlas rocket carrying Mercury capsule #13 almost a year later.
My father grew up 925 miles from the Baikonur Cosmodrome where Gagarin launched (relatively close considering Asian distances), and it was such a famous event that his high school sports team was named Yuri Gagarin. But when he came to the United States in the late 1960's, he lived in Bridgeton, Missouri (where I grew up), which was only 3 miles from where those Mercury capsules were constructed by McDonnell Aircraft (which is now Boeing).
- Knowledge requires an Observer, like an astronaut. Different observers find different knowledge in the same data. If people are destroyed, any unique observations they might have made in their life will be lost. Gus Grissom died in the Apollo 1 fire, so we will never know how the world may have been different today if he was the first person to set foot on the moon.
- Knowledge requires perspective. If we envision the Universe as a geometric shape, it will appear differently to people depending on their position within this shape. If these vantage points are destroyed or made inaccessible to people, unique knowledge gained from these perspectives will be lost.
- Knowledge requires memory, or a medium. If the medium is destroyed, the Knowledge cannot be retrieved.
- Knowledge requires language. If we can't interpret the language written on the medium, then we can't understand the Knowledge.
- Knowledge requires a location. If we can't find this knowledge, then, for us, it doesn't exist. The Universe contains all knowledge within it, but it has to be "discovered" first.
Disseminating knowledge will replicate it (data redundancy). Data redundancy ensures the medium is harder to destroy. This is the teacher's approach.
Disseminating knowledge also allows society to analyze it, perhaps coming to new conclusions, and they may decide to alter their interpretation of the knowledge. These altered interpretations change society's language over time, and this makes the original knowledge harder to understand for members of that society.
But the gatekeeper, seeing this coming, will move to new words entirely to protect the original knowledge. And those people allowed within the gates are privy to the meaning transition, while those outside of the gates are not informed. This effectively quarantines the altered interpretations to the original language.
However, if only the people inside the gates have knowledge, then data redundancy is poor, and it also slows the production of new knowledge, since knowledge is fractal and builds on previous knowledge. Knowledge is protected, but its longevity and usefulness declines. It might very well turn out that those outside of the gates will quickly reinvent and surpass the original knowledge.
I hypothesize that there is a 3rd class of curator, the Obscurer. The Obscurer actively "obscures" or covers up knowledge in the world that they have locked in their hidden vault behind the gates. They destroy it, as mentioned earlier, by either destroying the medium or the language or hiding its location. They may even go as far as destroying people and forcing conformity to single ideas to prevent alternate perspectives. They can flood the world with so much false knowledge that it becomes difficult to find the true knowledge, obscuring its actual location, essentially turning it back into randomness. The Obscurer is the most paranoid one, the hyper-attentive gatekeeper that never wants to leave their post.
Each of us, as an individual, has taken on these roles. When we are children, we quickly learn the value of teaching others, but we also learn to allow only our trusted few into our secrets, and we have an inner sanctum in our mind so private that nobody may enter. We may have even told lies to keep it private, hurting people, obscuring the truth, subtlety altering the medium and/or the language.
All of this can be extended into groups, or our society. The system is dynamic and probably has analogies in the natural world.
A lot of societal problems can be attributed to how knowledge is disseminated. If you provide someone with knowledge without education, they do not have the language to understand it. They may quickly use that knowledge to destroy the very reasons for that education, which eventually destroys the language causing the destruction of the knowledge.
Knowledge is extraction and refinement, a temporary pocket of order amongst the entropic nature of the universe. When knowledge is isolated, just like when chemical compounds or atomic particles are isolated, it becomes very reactive and unstable, like balancing a ball on the top of a hill.
If knowledge is misused, just like a pile of gunpowder, it will destroy itself in a flash, and move back into a stable, disorderly state. This can be a comforting realization; those that amass knowledge without a proper understanding will destroy themselves, along with that knowledge. One of the weaknesses of Evil, for instance, is that by definition it eventually destroys itself.
Groups of people that perform evils acts against other groups will eventually do the same to the individuals within their group, destroying the group. Evil does not grow, it cannot assemble; it can only disassemble that which has grown. Assembling is an act of individual kindness toward each other; Good.
This brings up the question, can knowledge be received directly from the Universe, with no need for us to generate it at all? Perhaps there exists such a mechanism, but if so, such knowledge would probably be detrimental to us unless we have the education along with it. Human history and mythology are full of such cautionary tales.
If you give someone a weapon (physical or informational), for example, but you do not teach them the value of human life or human rights, you have given them knowledge without education. Those people may even use those weapons to destroy the institutions of education, causing a loss of knowledge for many years into the future. These are Dark Ages, regressions of Mankind toward our base, or animal, form.
This base form of ours is interesting. Animals, for example, cannot individually affect the world or control their environment to the same degree as a civilized human. They may desire something but cannot achieve it, whereas a human could arrange the necessary means to do so, to a certain point.
But animals, as groups, can affect great change. This change seems to be orchestrated from higher-order ecological forces, physics and nature. They are components of a larger machine.
Curiously, this is not unlike human specialization, where the members of an organization become specialized, becoming components of a larger machine. In complexity science, for example, power-law, or fractal, distributions can be found both in living organisms and in socioeconomic systems (systems created by groups of organisms).
So it seems that there is a optimized region between a lower and upper bound where we can fully express our individuality; above our animal selves but below a hyper-specialized automaton. A fully-realized person, in my opinion, is one that incorporates a microcosm of Mankind, a smaller replica, like a fractal.
It seems counterproductive, but as we specialize, by definition, we move away from being a replica of Mankind to just a magnified segment of it, essentially becoming another "animal" in a higher-ordinate world. Like the Mandelbrot set, not every position and scale reveals self-similarity with the whole, but others will.
So we will see animalistic behavior in both those that are uneducated and hyper-educated, since, in today's world, hyper-education tends toward specialization. The highest levels of education provided by our universities are doctoral, and they are very specialized, related to a specific field or profession. Beyond this, people must continue on their own to further specialize, but their spaceship is taking them into uncharted territory, beyond the limits of our known knowledge.
A person that spends more hours of the day studying specialized concepts has fewer hours to study concepts outside of their field, since Time is finite. Human beings have only 18 or so usable hours per day, for example. As an abstraction, specialization comes at the cost of generalization, and abstractions carry with them only a subset of relations, disregarding all other relations.
But if the world is fractal, a specialized person should encounter a representation of concepts outside of their field within their field, if they look closely enough, if they keep magnifying that fractal. But not everyone will realize that this pattern is shared across fields. The beauty of the Mandelbrot set, for example, was not discovered until we invented the computer. Just like it is difficult for an uneducated person to see a shape until they learn the language of those shapes (literacy, mathematics, science, music, art), it is difficult for hyper-educated individuals to see the importance of fields outside of their own. Those that discover this become great representatives of Mankind; those that do not remain elements of a Machine.
I consider this a problem of perspective. When individuals come into existence on this planet, they are like snowflakes landing on a mountainside at different angles. If those snowflakes had eyes, some of them would not be able to see past their nearest crest (local minimum), some of them would be able to see all crests below them (local maximum) but not any crest up close. Some of the unlucky ones that landed flat would only see the sky or the ground. Given finite time, some snowflakes would have a vague understanding of the shape of the mountain they are on. Given infinite time, the sun will melt them all, and they will flow down the mountain, uncovering its true shape.
How is knowledge created?
It is created from what we Observe, Compare, Abstract, and Record. It requires Energy, Time, and Space.
Observing brings information into existence. Comparing it allows us to see similarities and differences. Abstracting it allows to see similarities and differences in other dimensions. Recording allows it to survive in the 4th dimension, Time. Applying this process iteratively generates more Knowledge over time, as Knowledge is an abstraction of Information and builds on itself. Knowledge seems to be related to our own shape, becoming an extension of ourselves, like a snowflake crystallizing via a preferential attachment model called diffusion-limited aggregation. Knowledge is a mirror of ourselves.
I literally cannot conceive of a method of thought that does not fall into these categories. I think we get confused by the sheer number of abstractions we create, forgetting they are our abstractions. Much of what we Observe and Compare are our own abstractions.
Consciously, I store structure and apply that structure to new fields to generate more knowledge. Some people store detail, and read voluminous materials to acquire knowledge that was stored by other people.
Either way, at some point, someone has to record and/or declare that knowledge, becoming a Curator. There is no universal authority on what is Knowledge and who is a Curator.
For example, fiction and non-fiction books contain stories that are just as "real".
A typical fiction book is a pattern of hypothetical detail combined in hypothetical structure. The particular elements do not have to be real, but the story does. A fictional book based on a story that is not real is random; meaningless.
A non-fiction book is a story of real elements. If these real elements were composed in real ways, the book is a "history", a restricted form of "story", prioritizing detail over structure. Every non-fiction book is a history book, but we don't always call them such, since some prioritize structure over detail. A science book, for example, does not always tell you what a particular thing does, but also the rules on which that thing operates, so you can apply that rule to predict or analyze. The history in a science book is the "why", the causal chain; this process is due to this process, which is due to this process, all the way to the origin of the Universe or Thought, our "first principles".
But non-fiction books also perform interpretations, they select one of many stories, out of our vast pattern pool of non-random stories.
"Commander Zern of the Galactic Army, launched Zatterball-74 to populate the 3rd planet of Zernstar-931."
"One hypothesis of the origin of life on planet earth is panspermia, microscopic life entering earth's atmosphere from objects such as comets or asteroids. There is evidence that extremophiles can survive the conditions of outer space."
In both cases, there is a story, a causal series of events that leads to our current observation (life on earth).
Both stories are "real" patterns. In one, a person launches an object to initiate desired outcome, in the other, the spatial coincidence of an object contaminates another object. We've encountered both of these stories before, these patterns are real and we learned them since childhood.
If we go along with the fictional story, we will have to continue to elaborate upon our story when we discover new information, to prevent contradiction. But, surprisingly, we do the same with the non-fiction story. If panspermia is determined to not likely be the cause of life on earth (or even falsified), another hypothesis will take its place, hopefully one that doesn't contradict previous science observations. But, from time to time, not unlike the paradigm-shift philosophy of Thomas Kuhn, observations hit at the core of science and show that hundreds of years of our scientific "story" is wrong. The observations were real, but the story was wrong. Newtonian physics and pre plate tectonics are good examples.
Interestingly, both have consistency, but they "grow" in different ways. And stories with real elements have different meaning to us.
The astronaut Gus Grissom died in that fire↗ with two other astronauts since they were trapped inside the command module in a pure oxygen environment with flammable synthetic materials and could not escape. I have heard the NASA audio recording and it is horrific. The engineers decided not to include an emergency hatch with explosive bolts since they were concerned that it could accidentally open, which occurred during the Mercury program. The irony is that Gus Grissom, himself, was in the first Mercury capsule that, along with that beautiful window, contained the first hatch with explosive bolts and it accidentally went off. He was accused by some of purposely blowing the hatch when there was no danger. But during the Apollo 1 fire, he was in mortal danger and had no explosive bolts to trigger, which would have saved their lives.
To most of us who were not present on that day but have only received the story secondhand, such a story could be fiction, but somehow we know it isn't. Stories are structure, but until we fill in the details, we cannot comprehend their true meaning.
After that tragedy, NASA redesigned the module with an outward-opening hatch of pressurized nitrogen. And even today, the new Orion capsule that is under development include an outward-opening hatch with an explosive-release mechanism.
If the real world is composed of information, how can a fantasy world not be "real"? It must be real, but has a different characteristic or quality to it, just like a dream has a different quality than waking life. If a dream is not real, then exactly where is our consciousness during 8 hours of the night? Did it cease to exist?
Most physicists agree with the predictions of quantum mechanics. Machines such as the quantum computer are currently exploiting its properties. Electrons, for example, exist in a probabilistic cloud, a wavefunction. This hasn't been disputed for many years.
But their existence is a different quality than an electron that we observe. As soon as we observe or "measure" it, it becomes a particle.
What is more real, the cloud (all possibilities), or the measurement (1 possibility)?
It would be easy to say the measurement, but then that would neglect the fact that quantum computers actually work by processing all possibilities simultaneously. Can something real be produced from a mechanism that is not real? The Mandelbrot set, for example, is derived from the complex (imaginary) plane, yet it has eerie similarities with nature, and imaginary numbers are integral to understanding quantum mechanics.
A rationalist assumes that the only thing real is an underlying principle, and the effects of that principle are only an approximation. Conversely, an empiricist assumes that the only thing real is the observed data, and that the proposed principle is an approximation (a theory).
If we are both rationalist and empiricist, which I believe we are, then both are real. I believe that somewhere in that probabilistic cloud, there is a world where Gus Grissom did not die in that fire, but walked the surface of the moon.
Both the cloud and the measurement are as real as fiction and non-fiction. The field of science uses induction as much as deduction, for induction is our method of abstracting to a generalization, and induction comes from where, exactly, Mr. Popper? When science creates an explanatory theory using induction, by definition, it cannot be a logical consequence. And one cannot simply attribute the choice to the ones that haven't been falsified, since this number would be astronomically large. Induction is related to the fractal shape of our brain, which is similar (self-similar) to the shape of the Universe within which we reside, and points us in the right direction.
Induction relies on deductive information from which to generalize, but deduction requires induction, or it would have nothing from which to deduce. They are a cycle without a starting point that we can find, since, in my opinion, we are somewhere inside a fractal. Deduction is a favorite tool of empiricists, and induction is a favorite tool of rationalists.
They are also related to our process of abstraction. The process of deduction narrows focus, but induction broadens it. The problem with induction is that it is so broad that it encompasses truths that are not valid in our specific, observed world (but would be valid in other worlds), so deduction helps us falsify the ones that aren't real for our world. It reminds me of the undecidable problem of Alan Turing.
Empiricism, on its own, will not generate new knowledge. Rationalism, on its own, will not generate new knowledge. But if the mind, being of the Universe, is like the Universe, the pattern, or story, will be the same.
They are fragments of thought that form a scaffolding, like a trellis. Knowledge is the vine that lives, interwoven, within this trellis, within this BinaryOpposition, whose root lies somewhere within us. It was created in our own image, the image of the Curator.Comments