Science commons

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Just a quick post before going to sleep (it’s 2:45 in the morning and I have class at 10:00 ugh).

This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen on the net today. 120 second introduction to what science commons is.

I can think of lot of things that can explain why the idea of ‘opensourced’ science or science commons must be one of the coolest and most revolutionary ideas of the generation, but my brain is turning into a jello right now, so detailed post will have to wait.

Just one thing though. Library of Alexandria. 

Just think about it. Why was library of Alexandria so important? Was it because it housed a lot of books? No, it isn’t. If anyone believes that the significance of the library of Alexandria was about stacks of books he/she lacks the understanding of the origin of modern civilization. Books or any individual units of information pop into existence all the time. Libraries are meaningful because they centralize and organize those individual information clusters. Centralize and organize, meaning giving accessibility to. 

Greatest threat to any knowledge is not in its misuse or incomprehension. It is in obscurity (as Cory Doctorow pointed out as he released his works under CC license). Libraries made human civilization by providing accessibility to knowledge that would have been forgotten otherwise by centralizing them in one geographic location and organizing them according to a system. From that location new ideas were born since people no longer had to spend their lifetime re-learning what someone else figured out half a century ago.

Science in general, lacks accessibility. Which is very weird when you think about it. Science is about accurate description of this universe, this universe every single member of the Homo sapiens sapiens share. Yet science lacks accessibility, both to the nonspecialists and specialists alike. It’s like having limited access to one of your eyes or limbs or organs.

Accessibility is catalyzing and empowering. When economic systems become accessible we get flourishing finances and trades system, with all the subsequent benefits of arts and culture. When human opinions become accessible we get one of the biggest human community ever, with subsequent benefits of policies and philanthropy. The first time academies and libraries became accessible we began a march toward a new civilization. What will we be able to accomplish once the sciences are truly open and known to every willing member of the humanity? 

Bruce Sterling on education

I’m taking a bit of a break today, which leaves me some time to indulge in all sorts of creative yet ultimately possibly meaningless ventures, like mathematica visualization, the processing language study, and scrounging for interesting bits on the net.

While on my usual sojourn throughout the infosphere this morning, I found an interesting passage written on subject of education by someone I assume to be the Bruce Sterling (here’s the original website I found this in). This passage was intended as a response to a question asking him what he would do as a ‘head honcho’ of the Ministry of Education asked earlier in the said webpage. A little too close to the truth for comfort I think. And people actually wonder why the public education systems all over the world is hitting the rock bottom.

If I were head honcho of the Ministry of Education,
my job would not be to make schools work as learning
environments.  Basically, my job would be to make
school-age children walk in straight lines and
salute the flag as I freed up the productive
capacity of their parents.

If schools were learning environments, all the smart
kids would clear out in half an hour.  Then they'd
go home and demand attention from Mom and Dad.
That just can't be allowed.

Universal knowledge

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.