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 or any other type of informational content (notes, archive collections, etc.). 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: Find something from multiple different starting points (starting queries). See what is related to the thing searched for. Find things you don’t know that you don’t know (i.e. things you wouldn’t know to search for). The visual map shows related knowledge that wouldn’t come up when searching with other search engines or search tools.
- Problem solving: Find all knowledge related to a given topic or problem, no matter which area or discipline it comes from.
- Knowledge sharing: Collaboratively contribute to a common knowledge map which stores everyone’s knowledge like an external brain. Optionally, see other people’s individual knowledge maps, showing how they conceptualize their own knowledge or the knowledge in their field. See what important connections have they made in their head.
- Knowledge documentation: Add to the map all useful knowledge you come in contact with. This prevents forgetting of all the useful things learned. It enables others (with access to the map) to benefit from the learned knowledge.
- Innovation: Synthesize bits of knowledge from diverse fields to gain new insights. Integrate separate lines of research and works of innovation to create larger breakthroughs.
- Experiential engagement: Visually explore a knowledge collection, see the conceptual connections, make unexpected discoveries, play with the available connections and make new ones. What is the outcome of this experiential engagement (involvement of both hemispheres) with knowledge versus the usual searching through lists of data?
- 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 informational resources with a rating system, custom metadata, search filters, revision history, moderating, commenting, integration with existing platforms, and more. Or anything in-between.
How it works
Similar to bookmarks, adding a new item to the knowledge map involves clicking a button in your browser. Then choosing which tags to assign.
Tags here work like associations in the brain. The tags/associations assigned to the item just added to the knowledge map become how this new item is integrated into the larger associative system of the map. It makes the new item connected to other items and discoverable through those connections and associations.
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: Design, 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. New connections mean new insights, new approaches, and better understanding of how the things we are dealing with work.
The above has enormous significance for people individually, for organizations and for humanity as a whole. Every problem we face requires an understanding of the various aspects of the problem. If some aspects (connections) are missing, then the solutions we come up with will either not work, or they will have side effects that we did not foresee or desire. The current status quo of problem solving in any field or industry suffers from such narrow understanding of problems and hence solutions that don’t account for important aspects, and this has been well recognized as seen by calls for interdisciplinary approaches.
Unfortunately, organizing and teaching knowledge in disconnected categories imposes a fundamental limitation on a person’s, an organization’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 informational Resource. A Resource can be anything – a note, lecture, tutorial, course, document, research paper, hands-on training, etc. Each Resource has tags. A Resource can have a variety of tags, more general and more specific ones, allowing it to have those connections. Using some of the examples above, a scientific paper 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.
A person searching for information on chairs can now discover informational Resources on human anatomy, new materials and a variety of other knowledge that has 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.
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 given material is worth my time and attention (and possibly my money)?
– How do I know which materials have 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 informational Resource 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 can we see the bigger picture? How can we see important patterns and 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 previously.
KnowledgeMap.me has created a visual knowledge map with the purpose of creating completely new possibilities.
We designed the knowledge map to enable getting an overview, seeing the relationships and visually exploring and searching through the knowledge.
If you are curious about the design process, you can read about it here.