There is an interesting notion behind some of the more network oriented mathematical researches these days, regarding possible existence of universal characteristic available to all network centric systems regardless of their physical implementation. For some odd reason I find myself coming back to such thought often in recent years, though I’m not really sure why I would pay any more attention to this fascinating subject than say, chaos in life-like system. Regardless of the reason, if I can’t help but to think about the subject I might as well do a little musing.
How about if I apply the methods of the network-link based thinking to a bit of epistemology? The structure of the human knowledge is fundamentally network oriented in that knowledge rarely if ever come without direct reason taking the form of knowledge. In order to broaden one’s knowledge one must know something first, and from there on the individual case of knowledge is built up, one thing leading to the other and the other depending on the truth of another knowledge which plays out in complex web of positive and negative feedback like any other decent complex system in nature. What if there is a certain characteristic that the structure of knowledge must take through the virtue of taking the mathematical form of complex network? What if it is possible to arrive at previously ignored possibilities of the world simply by searching for certain structural phenomena within the knowledge network itself instead of going through every single link within the network like we do right now? Even more, what if there is a pattern that all valid structure of knowledge must follow? What if there is a way to ‘know’ the structure of the knowledge itself without being aware of all the individual components forming the knowledge network?
If there is any valid point in this musing, the implications would be quite interesting. The impact such theory of knowledge would have on the nature of artificial intelligence/life studies and natural complex systems research would be most interesting, and quite a few educators would have something to think about. They might finally begin to treat learning as a development of interface to the universal structure of knowledge instead of some twisted weeding out process to erudite the gifted (which is a process most obvious in poorer schools of the inner city area, with richer private schools taking a bit more ‘democratic’ approach, strangely enough).
All this is nothing more than talk, of course. At the moment there is no way to support such claim of universal network-centric structure of knowledge in any academic detail. There are a few interesting historical cues that might suggest in thinking such a thing, like the prevalence of the Jungian collective unconscious in many forms throughout the history, or some of the things believed by Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy movement, though both are not quite rigorous enough to lend credit to a full fledged academic research of scientific nature.
Regardless of the truth of such complex system based dispositions, mathematical phenomena seem to be getting ever closer to the structure of the real world. Maybe it is a sign of the future to come.