Constellating

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Order                         -                      Chaos
Simple                       -                      Complex
Few                            -                      Many


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We chose to know more about less and less. We may have expanded what we as a society know - but it was at the price of no single individual being able to truly know it all.

Now we obviously require specialized experts (as opposed to dilettantes) to solve specific problems [...] Even though the information storage capacity in our brains is vast, we eventually bump up against what we can truly understand - or we just can’t hold all the relevant knowledge in our heads.

[...] machines can help, acting as partners in generalism [...] 

As knowledge grows, we must increasingly rely on computers. This is not a new insight; in 1945, Vannevar Bush wrote the seminal “As We May Think” essay in The Atlantic describing the need for a machine:

But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. 

The investigator is staggered by the findings and conclusions of thousands of other workers — conclusions which he cannot find time to grasp, much less to remember, as they appear. Yet specialization becomes increasingly necessary for progress, and the effort to bridge between disciplines is correspondingly superficial…

The difficulty seems to be… not so much that we publish unduly in view of the extent and variety of present day interests, but rather that publication has been extended far beyond our present ability to make real use of the record.  

The summation of human experience is being expanded at a prodigious rate, and the means we use for threading through the consequent maze to the momentarily important item is the same as was used in the days of square-rigged ships.

The problem of hidden knowledge continues to grow. And now we have the Internet, and search, and big data which both surface, and hide, knowledge. As a way of addressing this problem of growing knowledge, Bush proposed a “memex” device, a type of rudimentary web browser.

[Samuel Arbesman]
Let’s Bring The Polymath — and the Dabblers — Back 

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I have my own problems with 'hidden knowledge'.

Take my music collection. Because it has become so easy to amass large quantities of music I now have a (digital) record collection that extends beyond my ability to interact with it effectively. I find myself having to come up with 'ways in' to it; methods by which I can access those songs that otherwise will never get played. These include playlists, shuffle mode, and limiting my access through arbitrarily defined boundaries (such as only playing artists that begin with the letter 'A'). It is too big; too complex.

This blog offers another example. As I write, there are a total of 526 posts on foreverbecoming. I do my best to link posts up to one another; and in so doing create threads - or constellations - that make (to my mind) greater sense out of the information.

These threads act in much the same way as a playlist in itunes. By linking things up - gathering separate elements together to make larger wholes - we create a higher, more abstract layer on top of that which already exists. I see this as akin to building a pyramid, where every subsequent layer of blocks gets larger and fewer in number.

It culminates in a single block at the top - the capstone - which is akin to a universal binding truth (such as the golden rule, "harm no one, help others as much as you can"). A true capstone is something that can in some way encapsulate everything beneath it, albeit in a very general way. It contains no details. I'm not sure what the capstone of foreverbecoming is, although I think the golden rule is as good as any. Maybe it is something like "L O V E."

The process of linking posts to each other is very similar to the process of creating constellations. It is also similar to a dot-the-dot puzzle, albeit one with many dots and no numbers. Essentially, I am using specifics to get at generalities. Every star is a picture - a constellation - in itself; but by joining stars to one another we gain access to a new level of understanding.

But inevitably posts get lost. Many of the posts on this blog will have no "Related posts:-" They are 'hidden knowledge', lost until they can be weaved into a bigger picture. They are like those towns and villages that haven't yet been linked up to the arteries of the modern world; those that aren't near a motorway, and don't have a train station. They get no traffic, and have terrible hit-counts. Advertisers go nowhere near them.

Looked at from that angle, perhaps they would prefer to stay hidden after all ...
 
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This is artificial general intelligence (AGI), with the emphasis on “general”. In his vision of the future, super-smart machines will work in tandem with human experts to potentially solve anything.

“Cancer, climate change, energy, genomics, macroeconomics, financial systems, physics: many of the systems we would like to master are getting so complex,” he argues.

“There’s such an information overload that it’s becoming difficult for even the smartest humans to master it in their lifetimes. How do we sift through this deluge of data to find the right insights? 

One way of thinking of AGI is as a process that will automatically convert unstructured information into actionable knowledge. What we’re working on is potentially a meta-solution to any problem.”

[Demis Hassabis]
The superhero of artificial intelligence: can this genius keep it in check?

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Related posts:-
Joining the dots
Everything is connected
Deep vs Shallow
Making Connections 
The Eternal Ideas
Field of Vision

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