This website was born out of our dissatisfaction with how human knowledge is organized. Below you can read about the fundamental problems with how we humans organize our knowledge currently and what solutions this website provides instead. You can expect to see more problems and their solutions added to this page over time.
The Problem of 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 categories get lost.
Let’s assume that I want to design a chair. What information might be relevant to this task? 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 (and therefore teachable) 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 designing, 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 could be 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.
It must be remembered that this approach to the problem is not chosen for its own sake. The goal is still to significantly better organize human knowledge and order it by its usefulness. The approach we have outlined seems like the best one currently available to tackle this challenge. However, we fully expect that bringing together a community of people with the intent to better organize knowledge will have unforeseen, synergistic effects with potentially significant benefits to humanity.
The Problem of Visualizing Knowledge