Monthly Archives: February 2004

Talk About Knowledge Discovery

This is a talk I gave more than two year ago.
Before I tell you about the theory of knowledge discovery, I think it is better for me to first tell you why it is needed, why I spend so much time on it and elearning and why I think it is important.

There are probably two reasons that I devote myself to elearning. One is on a social sense. The other is on an individual sense.

On the big scope, each individual contributes to the society s/he is living in through some way. I think if I can ever make a social change to make the society progress toward a more optimal future, elearning would be my way to do it. I have seen the effect of revolution in China. I saw the serious side effect of it. It is too dramatic, and too damaging to the society, to the order of the society, which needs many years to set up. I also see that revolution didn’t change the society fundamentally. The soil of the society stays the same. If you read carefully of culture revolution, you will have an idea. The soil has to be changed in order to have any significant systemic stable change. I also dislike the politics. I don’t think it is ultimately necessary although presently it plays some important role in the society. The way I want to bring out the social change is to make the change before any argument. Politics has its role because our present society has certain needs for it. If such needs are got rid of, the politics disappear without/before arguments. Technology is a way to win without arguments. I am very optimistic about the change the technology will bring to the society. I do believe we are living in a better society we ever have in history, and I believe the dramatic development we have in modern society is due to technology. I see learning as an essential nature of human being and I believe that individual learning is a fundamental force for social improvement. A revolutionary change in individual learning will get rid of many needs we have presently. I see that there are many essential learning options not currently available to individuals yet and I know technology can make those options available.

Making social change can be harmful. Many people make social change by forcing other people to follow their ideas. It can be very bad. What I want to do, however, is only to make the options available and keep the options open. Let the people to choose whether they want it or not. I see that in the learning field, there are a lot of options which are not currently available. I am working to make those options available.

So if I would ever make some social change, it would be through the way of making the fundamental change before any arguments. But I don’t have to make social changes. Even I cannot make it, I still think it is ok. At least I enjoyed the playing very much myself and it is very helpful for me personally.

So now I will talk about why I think learning is very important for individuals, and thus for the society. It is based on my personal experiences. Like in Zen, we tried to understand the nature of ourselves first. In a lot of senses, we draw from our own experiences to understand other people and the society.

So talking about my experiences, I feel that there are mainly three domains that I need to learn: commerce, liberal arts and technology.

Why I want to study commerce? Because I think commerce is the biggest reality. You can only survive in the forest. Or I can quote from one person(the CEO of China’s branch of Acer) “only thrown into the grate plain of the Africa, can you learn how to survive”. The school, or the academic, is full of artificial rules and false assumptions. In commerce, you will have to break all the rules, trying to utilize all the resources available in the society. I felt freed in society, freed from the school’s artificial environment. You have to ask many whys and make many decisions in society. And the rich social experience serves a very good ground for making those decisions.

Why I want to study liberal arts? When I was studying music, I learned to appreciate the beauty of sound. When I was studying the Chinese tea culture, I learned to appreciate the beauty of smell and taste. When I was studying gardening, I learned to appreciate the beauty of sight. So I got to sharpen my ear, my nose, my tongue and my eyes these sense organs. When I was learning literature, I got to appreciate the beauty of language and the culture and was able to contribute to the culture. Commerce is the biggest reality and we get our most reliable experience in it. But the experience is still quite limited. You only interact with people in a certain region and in a certain span of the history. But by reading, you get to communicate with people of other countries and people hundreds years ago or thousands years ago. The condition, the moment we are in now has a lot to do with people in other countries and people in the history. By reading about these, I get to understand more about the present situation and I am more able to interact with it or contribute to it. Realized it or not, we are shaped by all these, it helps a lot to understand ourselves and our current moment if we understand the context.

Then why I want to study technology? In a general sense, the technology study offers me a very good scientific training. It helps me to think scientifically and logically, being able to abstract out the underlying principles from various phenomena. Computer Science, specifically, work as a bridge between different domains of my studies. The uniqueness of Computer Science is that it bridges the traditional gaps between the physical science and the social science. If you have great ideas, convert into software, use it and test it. Give the ideas the concrete form. When I was designing the knowledge discovery platform, it is very vital for me to have a very good understanding of the nature of knowledge and convert this understanding into the design of my software. Computer Science study is like any other arts. It has all the adventures and beauties you will have in other arts.

With all that said, it is very natural for me to devote myself to elearning. I want to use the software to help me speed up my study, since I have so many big domains to study. If it helps me a lot, it will probably be helpful to other people, if I am not too weird.

Then why I am building this notebook project? I used it to help me study. The initial ideas of this notebook is as following:

First, I need to tell you how I used to study in my undergraduate.

Usually I will have several questions in a certain period of time. I keep those questions in my mind. I will try to direct all my daily life experiences to answering those questions. I like to work very hard on my engineering during weekdays. I got to train my brain a lot through all the engineering thinking. I learned many ways of thinking through it. Then in the weekends, I will go to the bookstore to read a lot of liberal arts books. I brush through many books, picking books I think will contributing to thinking of those questions. Then I will take half a day off to contemplate on those questions, bringing all the life experiences I have collected for the week, all the reading I have done, and using all the thinking abilities I have trained myself in the engineering study. I tried to let experiences and learning in different domain to collide and create new things. I usually do such half day thinking in outside with beautiful scenery(it helps to bring my thinking to reality, thus I can keep myself away from artificial thinking.)

This way of study helps me a lot. But it has some drawbacks. I keep too many things in my mind in order to let them collide. Thus it may often slow my mind down, thus unable to just enjoy the present moment. What Zen teaches us is that we should enjoy this moment. It is very important to enjoy this moment. No matter how much you learn, it should help you to enjoy more of this moment, not keep you away of this moment.

So I use the notebook to solve this problem. For each main question, I create a note for it and write down all the significant learning experiences I have in it. For example, I had a Fun note, which is for me to explore the way to get rid of the separation of work and play and make my work fun-driven, just like kids playing. So I have such a note, and I write down my experience in it. For example, when I realize that I still need some discipline, I wrote it down. I have other notes, like CS note, elearning note, Zen note and so on. Each of them bears the learning experiences in it and they have a lot to do with each other. When I was viewing CS note, I may recall what I have just read in Zen note or elearning note, then come up with something new.

So I use the notebook to accomplish the way of study I used in my undergraduate. And by using notebook, I don’t need to keep so many things in my mind, thus I don’t have to think all the time.

I only think when necessary and it is achieved by simply editing the notes. No unnecessary thoughts.

There are some other ideas behind notebook. For example, when I had many things to do, I easily got messed up and didn’t know which one to do first. But when I wrote it down on paper, I easily figured out which one to do first, which to do next. The notebook bears this idea too.

The notebook also serves as a very helpful self-teaching tool. In self-teaching, the motivation is high, but normally discipline is ignored. There is no homework. There is no exam. No pressure. Learner is often very eager to just go forward without reviewing what has been learned. The discipline is still needed. Thus by writing down the significant learning in notes, reviewing the notes frequently and editing the notes frequently, you discipline yourself in learning.

While I was making notes on the online notebook for some time, I realized the theory of Knowledge Discovery. Later I enforced the semantics of Knowledge Discover on the structure of the notebook and make notebook a part of the building of the Knowledge Discovery platform. So now I will talk about Knowledge Discovery. Continue reading


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