On knowledge systems

Caution: This post is long-ish but does not have a denouement. ;)

As I commonly do, I went to the mental well this morning to see what I’d find to add to the ‘ol blog. I hauled the bucket, and found two ideas which have been sitting there for months. Every time I go to the well, these two come up on top. Time to try to do something with them.

I’ve been actively thinking for years about getting a handle on learning. There’s a huge amount of things I’m delighted to simply learn from by osmosis. I read something, or experience something, and it affects me to some degree. I’ve had countless experiences where long after, I can clearly see the influence has percolated. I know this type of learning works well, and it’s effortless; I’ve mastered this type of learning and in so far as I can relax about trusting the process, it just works.

But there’s a type of learning which I haven’t been doing at all for years: Organized learning directed at a particular goal. I’ve not even been attempting to make any progress on that. Here’s an example of a specific thing I’d like to learn about:

Psychoactivity is a particular kind of relationship between a person, their body, what they perceive and the context of that perception. Psychoactivity occurs when a person’s thoughts, emotions and body sensations take on symbolic significance in response to what they are perceiving.

Space becomes psychoactive once a person’s mind-body starts to react symbolically to their physical surroundings and/or to their imaginative mind-space. David Grove coined the term ‘psychoactive space’ because it seems as if our perceptions are causing us to react and that we have little choice in the matter — which is true to some extent. When our perception of a space and the spatial relations contained therein have an independence from us, we are effectively living in the symbolism of the space moment by moment. Although I am referring to the space as psychoactive, I want to emphasise that psychoactivity is a relationship between the perceiver and the perceived (and/or the perceiver and the context).

~ James Lawley from, https://cleanlanguage.co.uk/articles/articles/29/1/When-Where-Matters-How-psychoactive-space-is-created-and-utilised/Page1.html

I stumbled over that article a while back, skimmed it, read it, read it carefully, … and realized I need to spend a lot more time on the topic of psychoactive space. That site itself is large and I’ve not stuffed it through my usual website serialize tools because it deserves more than to be simply “read through.” Also, it is clearly going to point me off to other books, journals, and articles. I feel like I’m standing on a hilltop looking at a vast landscape thinking, “I need to make a map, or something, while I have this perspective because once I descend from this hill it’s going to be rabbit holes all the way across this landscape.”

So that leaves me with my original, (at the top of this post,) general quest for a knowledge system, and this intriguing, specific example in need of a knowledge system. It’s time to start thinking about knowledge systems. (Which, one might realize, unfortunately presents me with the need for some sort of knowledge system to learn enough about knowledge systems to decide which . . . )

When it doubt, I deploy the familiar tools which are at hand. One of my favorite tools is to ask the right questions, in particular these three questions:

Is this a problem I really need/want to solve? Srsly bro’? Yes. Next question please.

Is the scale of the problem sane/do I have sufficient resources? I’m not asking for a knowledge system (time for an acronym! “KS”) to track all human knowledge. I don’t even need it to be collaborative. It doesn’t have to be complete—in the sense that if I’m using this KS to learn “psychoactive space,” it doesn’t have to also store all my knowledge about “architecture” and “bio-mechanics.” I want a KS that’s a power tool—better than a manual screwdriver. I’m not wanting a KS that outsources the driving of screws. I want a KS that one person (me!) can build and use. Glancing out at the universe I can see lots of things which could be a solution. (Things like “Evernote” spring to mind in case you’re eyes are popping out of your head from all this stratospheric cogitation and you just want me to shut up and get to the punchline but sorry this post doesn’t end with me telling you what KS I’m now using.)

So far, so good. Final question:

What would a solution look like? The KS would be easy to get started. I don’t want to spend months figuring it out. I want to start building the house by tossing a sofa in the bare lot and calling it a first approximation. I’ll erect a tarp when the weather threatens, walls in the fall, etc. It’s not important that it be easy to add to—no, some effort should be required to sift and summarize or filter or whatever as the knowledge is built. Stateful: meaning every time I climb back to that metaphorical hilltop to survey the landscape, I don’t want to have to redo any of my thinking from the last time I was there; duck up to the hilltop, achieve instant perspective and return to the landscape. online is also not a requisite: Sure a lot of the material I’d be learning from would be online, but some won’t be… and importantly, I’m a human not a computer so while I use online tools… well, paper and all works fine too. Plus anything online has maintenance. …but it does need to acknowledge and deal with stuff that’s online.

I have ideas. But as I cautioned at the top, this post is just a place where I wanted to think through all of the above.