Monthly Archives: September 2011

Knowledge Engine

Knowledge economy needs a better digital representation of knowledge, needs a knowledge engine.

The true coming of knowledge economy needs a core technology breakthrough, which is to give knowledge a better digital representation on the internet, which includes a knowledge engine to transform experiences into knowledge more effectively. With this technology breakthrough, it is possible to have vast knowledge based cooperation happening on the internet.

The so called knowledge economy based on the internet needs a better way to represent knowledge digitally. The current formats for representing knowledge digitally are very insufficient for knowledge cooperation. For example, yes, blog is a way to represent knowledge. You can summarize your experiences, and you can share these experiences with other people. And later you can review your blogs as a way to review your past experiences and knowledge. But this way of representing knowledge is very ineffective. Knowledge is in big blocks. One blog post may have several good knowledge points, and another blog post may overlap with similar knowledge points. And you might repeat these points over and over again in many articles. It is also very hard for other people to cooperate with you on these knowledge points (Although commenting can get some views from other people). Wiki is also a format to represent knowledge, and it is more tuned towards knowledge cooperation. But it is still quite ineffective. The google group or various discussion forums are good at getting inputs from various people. But to extract knowledge from the discussions take a lot of efforts.

For open organizations, they are usually exploring new frontiers of various social domain, for example education. In the journey of exploration, the organizations need effective ways to document their knowledge and share that knowledge effectively with similar organizations around the world. But currently there is no effective way for these open organizations to construct their knowledge while they are exploring and share that knowledge with others and cooperate on those experiences and knowledge. Blog, wiki, google groups and so on, are insufficient.

What is knowledge

So we need to know what is knowledge deeply in order to give it a good digital form on the internet. So what is knowledge? Here allow me to be brief. Knowledge is a dynamic streaming structure. Its source is individual daily experiences. The brain is reconstructing these experiences over and over again to form a better structure, which will help you to quickly recognize problems or solve problems when faced with new situations. The reconstructing of experience to form knowledge happens mostly in two ways: one is to filter out unimportant ones and adding more weight to important ones as time goes by and as you gain more experiences; the other is to categorize knowledge and change your categorization system from time to time, often in a way of finding a better bottom level knowledge that unites knowledge above.

So the unit of knowledge is daily experience (This includes the concrete experience in an event. It also includes abstract analysis or understanding). The structure formed included two aspects: one is the classification on different levels; the other is the weight of importance of each experience/thought.

What is learning

Learning is the process of forming structured knowledge as mentioned above. This includes find the focus domains in the current period of time according to individual interests (Everyone is interested in several fields during a period of time) (Surely you should also consider your ability and your current environment. First you shouldn’t pick too many domains that go beyond your capacity. Secondly you should best take advantage of the resources of your current environment. I won’t go into more details here.). Then arrange your activities to accumulate your experiences in these domains. Reflect on your experiences regularly and do some critical thinking (such as collecting all experiences, classifying experiences, filtering out unimportant ones and adding weight to important ones, finding new knowledge at the bottom which unites other knowledge, form the understanding of the whole, and etc.) Verify your knowledge with new situations to see if you can identify and solve the new problems quickly. Iterate this process to reach a good structure of the whole knowledge. Then find new interested domains, expand your knowledge, and keep finding bottom knowledge that unites everything, finding more general understanding. Improve yourself continuously this way, so you can face more complex tasks.

Of course, although these processes are happening inside everyone’s brain, not everyone is aware of these processes.

What is knowledge engine?

In internet ushered knowledge economy, we need software to help us better accomplish the process above and to achieve knowledge cooperation. Knowledge engine is to transform experience into knowledge. And knowledge economy based on internet needs this knowledge engine. It is like the engine in the industrial era. You need that to make ships, cars, and airplanes. In the knowledge economy, we need knowledge engine to build the ship, cars, and airplanes in the knowledge age.

So by using the knowledge engine to record your daily experiences, and accomplish some simple editing tasks regularly, you can accomplish learning and many thinking processes.

The characteristics of thinking process

Thinking is to tell difference. First consciousness tells the difference. This is experience. Then it is brain does various logical analyzing on these detected differences. So the base of thinking is experiences. To think effectively, you need to know what specific experiences you have had. In our thinking, a lot of energy is used in recalling past experiences. Memory recall is a very exhausting process, especially when you are doing it subconsciously. So to do effective thinking, you can first focus on just collecting your past experiences. (You can do so by reading past notes, or stuff you have read or watched in the past, or objects that can help you.) After you have had all those experiences shown vividly before you, you can start working on them with your brain. And once you had all your experiences before your eyes, the thinking should be very fast (lightening fast).

But if you already put down your experience digitally when it happened, you only need the system to find those experiences in a certain period of time or in a certain domain when doing thinking. This saved the exhausting process of memory recall. With all experiences shown before you, it is like visualized experiences/thoughts. Then you just look at those experiences and do your thinking.

How to use knowledge engine for learning?

First you record your important daily experiences and thoughts. The key is not to spend too much time recording your experiences. It is better to be short and brief, as long as it is enough for you to recall that experience when you review it later on.

Then you organize these experiences regularly to achieve the effect of learning. For example, reviewing them weekly, monthly or yearly to form a good learning habit.

When you are editing your records, all learning methods and thinking ways can be applied.

For example, you can use the system to find experiences in a certain period of time or in a domain, then you just review these experiences quickly without much thinking. You are solely recalling the past experiences.

Then you can give a weight of importance to each recorded experience/thought. We know some experiences are just random thoughts. You probably felt important at the time, but the experience/thought never came to you again. So it probably just is a random thought. So you don’t need to pay much attention to random thought. But some experiences come to you over and over again. Then they are the important experiences. So by giving different weights to each record of experience, you accomplished one important task of learning: to filter out unimportant experiences and keep the most important ones.

You can also categorize your experiences (by tagging, for example). It is said earlier that learning is to intentionally accumulate experiences in various domains. You can accumulate your experiences by various activities. And the experiences you gain in an activity might be related to several domains. So by categorization, you are categorizing knowledge. This is another important task of learning.

With some experiences, you might not know how to categorize them. You can leave them there for now. After some time, you might have gained more experiences and you can look back on those odl experiences. You might then realize that you are actually opening up a new domain of knowledge. So you create a new tag for them. So you accomplished the process of knowledge discovery.

You may also realize that there is a better way to categorize your experiences. So you replace old set of tags with a new set. That means your brain is having a better understanding of knowledge and is forming a better structure (which usually is a more beautiful structure). The is is the natural process of brain’s learning. And through simple editing operation, you accomplish this important learning task.

Other than the operations above, there are other ways that knowledge engine can help you learn or think.

For example you can focus on records of experiences that are not yet categorized or assigned weight to find something there. Or you can put experiences of a certain set of tags together to do knowledge collision, to see if something new and creative might come out.

The great benefits of using knowledge engine

Knowledge engine lessens the burden of your brain since it takes over the burden of memorization. When you have some important experiences/thoughts, you note them down quickly. And then you can go back to what you are doing, and don’t need burden your brain trying to carry though experiences inside your brain. And after some time, you can use knowledge engine to recollect what you have experienced.

When you are thinking, since knowledge engine takes over the burden of memorization, you can do very quick thinking. Since experiences are recorded, you can do various editing operations to accomplish various ways of thinking.

It makes learning easy for everyone. Just by following some common ways of editing, students learn how to learn effectively. By doing editing regularly, students form a good habit of learning or the so called discipline. Thus learning is not a mysterious thing anymore. Normal people can grasp the hang of learning and thinking.

It makes it easy for organizations to construct their domain knowledge through their exploration. Organizations become learning organizations. Members explore and learn of a domain together, and build the knowledge together. The structured knowledge in the new fields can be shared with people around the world.

In the past, it is hard for people to communicate their knowledge with other people, since everyone has a different framework of thoughts, and everyone has quite different experiences, and everyone is constructing his own map. But knowledge engine will make the communication of knowledge easier. A knowledge library or map shared by all people can also be constructed.

With knowledge engine, the production of knowledge is also totally different. Knowledge will come from the broad base of crowd, forming the true sense of knowledge “ocean” instead of current knowledge “islands”.

Sine knowledge engine can represent the knowledge structure inside a human brain, then teachers with true knowledge, those with the whole picture of knowledge, can effectively guide students by providing direct feedback thought knowledge engine, achieving the true sense of “teaching”.

There are more interesting aspects and questions regarding knowledge engine. I won’t go into details here.

By giving a better digital representation of knowledge, actually what we are doing is digitalize human

consciousness, e.g. digitalize human brains. The essence of what software and internet are doing is actually digitalize human world. And digitalizing human consciousness is the highest form of digitalization. The revolutionary change that internet will cause in education and knowledge cooperation, demand this kind of digitalization at the deepest level. On this level, we can see the digitalization in the past is far from sufficient. Education and knowledge are always the fields that is very hard for people to understand. There are many generally accepted wrong views. For the internet to change education and knowledge cooperation, we have to come to the topic of digitalization at the deepest level, to represent human consciousness as it is on the internet.


Filed under Random Thoughts

An education survey

I had a chance to go to a local city in China to do a survey with public school (there are very few schools in China) teachers, instructional researchers (people who had been outstanding teachers and now more involved in providing teaching guidelines to other teachers), school principles, and some students. I think school problems are fundamentally the same everywhere around the world. I think what I found out in China should also applies to the states.

* Everyone surveyed has a somewhat clear understanding of what school is. Especially the principles are very clear about it. Everyone knows test based teaching is the root of all evils. But only a few have the knowledge and courage to make some change. Here let me share with you what the school principles said of school. One school principle said to his teachers: “No one of you can survive if you get out of the school and get into society. None of you have the skills to survive.” He also said that school is a prison. Another school said that the wall of the school would be torn down in the future, and the that school would disappear too.

* students had a big outcry over the testing. When asked what kind of online system they would like for education, one student answered that if the system has anything to do with testing it will have no future.

* When visiting the classrooms, I learned that the coldness people have towards each other and towards public issues in society is developed when they are in school. Since they are forced to receive education passively and have no any means to change the way of education, they developed coldness and hypocrisy very early on.

* The current system is a huge system that people play various roles. Everyone tries to fit into the roles. There are fixed routines to follow. People have a shared understanding of the system. There are various activities organized routinely to guide teaching. Within the existing framework, pretty what can be done have already been done.

* Information technology has already had a big impact on schooling. Schools need the support of information technology. There are no arguments on this anymore. Teachers already had the habit of searching for course material online. Some schools are quite will equipped with technology, having IT covering various aspects of schooling.

* Within the current education system, people have come up with various ways to improve teaching. They did a lot of work. But only a few teachers had the idea that students should learn more by themselves and that the teachers should teach less. Only a few teachers contemplated what the students should really learn.

* With all the efforts put in, the current situation is still that the teachers are not happy, and that the students are not happy, according to a school principle. This is also shared by many others.

* There are some right efforts within the system that I can recognize. For example, putting more emphasis on library, on reading, especially giving students more time to read during class time. Mentorship is implemented in some schools. There are also more emphasis on self-reflection. All these are good efforts. But it is far from enough.

It is interesting to see that even within the education system itself there is a widely shared view that standard testing is the root of all evils, and to see that right efforts are put more on ability instead of testing score, while in US so many people think standard testing is the way to save American education.

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Filed under Random Thoughts