This website presents a new way of organizing human knowledge. The website servers two main purposes:
1. Build a collective map of humanity’s knowledge.
2. Enable individuals and groups to create their own knowledge maps.
The website enables the creation of “knowledge maps” – visual and interconnected collections of knowledge. As implemented here, knowledge maps are inspired by insights from current neuroscience on how the brain organizes information, and they take full advantage of the possibilities of modern IT in giving people choice and flexibility over how they interact with and most effectively use the available knowledge.
Some of the benefits of knowledge maps:
- Knowledge discovery: Searches return knowledge relevant to my search query, including things I don’t know that I don’t know (i.e. things I wouldn’t know to search for). The search returns related knowledge that wouldn’t come up when searching with other search engines or search tools.
- Problem solving: What knowledge is relevant to my problem? What knowledge, from any discipline, will help me create a better solution?
- Knowledge sharing: See what’s in someone’s knowledge map. What does this person know? How are they thinking of their knowledge? How are they thinking of their field? What important connections have they made in their head?
- Knowledge documentation: When I read/watch a piece of knowledge, I relate it to other pieces of knowledge. I can document these relations so I won’t forget them later. Then those connections, not just the pieces of knowledge, come up in the search results.
- Innovation: Synthesize knowledge from diverse fields to gain new insights.
- And many more.
A knowledge map can be as simple as a visual and interconnected bookmarks system, or as sophisticated as a large accumulation of knowledge resources with a rating system, custom metadata, search filters, revision history, moderating, commenting, integration with existing platforms, etc. Or anything in-between.
How it works
Much like bookmarks, people click a button in their browser to add a knowledge resource to the knowledge map. They select tags to assign to the resource.
For example, someone might add an article that they identify as relevant to computers and automation, so they would assign those tags to the article. Later, someone else (or even the same person) may identify the article as relevant to diagnosing diseases, so they would assign that additional tag. In this way, the boundaries between knowledge disciplines are crossed, and a sort of a shared mind is created. The article as a piece of knowledge will be returned when searches for any of those three tags are made. Furthermore, the three tags (aka concepts or topics) will now be related – the map will show that automation, computers and diagnosing diseases are related concepts. The more knowledge resources that have these tags, the stronger the relationship between the concepts. Seeing such lateral relations is thus enabled.
Drilling down to a more specific topic is achieved not through a hierarchical organization, but through combining tags. Thus, searching for effectiveness + teaching will show resources that have both these tags.
Why Knowledge Maps?
Below you can read about some fundamental problems with how we humans organize our knowledge currently and what solutions this website’s knowledge maps provide instead. You can expect to see more added to this page over time.
The Problem Of Dividing Knowledge Into Categories
Today humanity largely divides knowledge into categories and, worse, teaches it like categories. When you go to a library, you can see the books separated in sections: Astronomy, Chemistry, Artificial Intelligence, etc. Similarly, in a university you can choose between the disciplines provided there, for example you can choose between Economics and Ecology. While it seems useful to have some pointer to give you an idea of what kind of information you can expect to see inside a given category, the basic problem is that the connections between the knowledge get lost.
Let’s say I want to design a chair. What information might be relevant to this endeavor? Currently it is hard to say because the connections are only inside people’s heads. One person may have found connections between chair design and human anatomy. Another person may have found a connection between chairs and a particular material – perhaps they discovered a material that can be used as a sitting surface. These and other connections are not out there, explicitly stated and discoverable, therefore chair designing remains uninformed of them.
This problem has been recognized for some time and in recent years there has been more and more emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches and thinking. New fields, often with longer names, are emerging. One example is psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology – the name describes previously unnoticed or unstated connections between the fields of Psychology, Neurology, Immunology and Endocrinology. One of the goals of this website is to make explicit the connections that were previously implicit, as well as uncover a huge number of previously unsuspected connections.
The above has enormous significance for people individually and for humanity as a whole. Every problem that we face requires an understanding of the aspects that are relevant to the problem. If some aspects (connections) are missing, then the solutions we implement will either not work, or they will have side effects that we did not foresee or desire.
And so, unfortunately, organizing and teaching knowledge in disconnected categories imposes a fundamental limitation on a person’s (and humanity’s) problem-solving capabilities.
KnowledgeMap.me uses tags to map knowledge. Tags seem the best current way to do this.
The key to tags is that they are non-hierarchical. This means that we can stop thinking about a piece of knowledge as belonging in a certain place and start thinking of it as having multiple connections.
At the center of KnowledgeMap.me’s organization of knowledge is the Resource. A Resource can be anything – a book, lecture, tutorial, course, document, etc. Each Resource has tags. A Resource can have all kinds of tags, without limitation, therefore there can be all kinds of connections. Using some of the examples above, a certain scientific paper, entered as a Resource, can have the tags psychology, neurology, immunology and endocrinology, among others. A book on anatomy can have the tags chairs and design, while a lecture on a new kind of material can have the tag chairs.
People on KnowledgeMap.me enter Resources that they find useful, and they enter tags and other data that describes the Resource. This data now becomes searchable. A person searching for information on chairs can now discover Resources on human anatomy, new materials and a variety of other subjects that have been identified as relevant.
The Problem of Information Overload
It is often said that today we live in an age of information overload. There are so many websites, articles, scientific studies, books, etc. on any problem, question and subject matter. And large numbers of new ones are being published every day.
What are we to do if we want to find some useful information on a subject – be it related to medicine, climate change, personal productivity, learning a new skill, raising children, improving our finances, starting a company, etc., etc.?
Search engines like google.com do a good job of giving us search results corresponding to the words we searched for. Unfortunately, they leave us with a sea of information that we now have to somehow sift through.
The great wealth of information (high number of search results) leaves us with a few questions:
– Where do I start?
– How do I decide whether a book or course or any other material is worth my time and attention (and possibly my money)?
– How do I know whether the description of a material is mainly a marketing pitch or the material really has valuable content?
The problem we are faced with can be stated as follows: how can we make the most useful information come on top of the search results?
KnowledgeMap.me solves the problem by enabling people to vote on each Resource (i.e. a book, lecture, course, etc.) according to its usefulness. It then orders the search results by putting the Resources with the highest ratings on top.
The mechanics of how the voting happens can be adjusted so as to obtain the most optimal search results. Possibilities include: allow everyone to vote; allow only people above a certain threshold of reputation to vote; give more weight to the votes of people with higher reputation; adjust the ordering algorithm; and so on.
The end result will be something similar to a search engine that people control through their votes. How the control happens is determined by the mechanics of voting.
The goal is to significantly better organize human knowledge and order it by its usefulness. By bringing together a community of people with the intent to better organize knowledge, we are engaging in continuous improvement of the ordering algorithm.
The Problem of Visualizing Knowledge
How do we see the bigger picture? Important patterns? Important connections? Most of the time, we have to read through mountains of text in order to form a picture in our head of the context and structure and important relationships of the thing we’re investigating. A very time consuming process – and then all of that insight is only in our head.
Being able to see our own knowledge, or someone else’s knowledge, has not been possible. Would it have occurred as a possibility to you?
KnowledgeMap.me has created a visual knowledge map with the purpose of enabling all of this.
We designed the knowledge map to enable getting an overview, seeing the relationships and visually searching through the knowledge.
If you are curious about the design process, you can read about it here.