Tag Archive | Knowledge

The Purpose of Learning

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is knowledge?”

“Is it information?”

“Knowledge is organized and integrated information.

Knowledge is Understanding.

Having knowledge is not enough (passive knowledge). It’s important to be able to access it efficiently whenever you need it (active knowledge). Being unable to access it when you need it is as if you didn’t have it.”

“How can you access knowledge efficiently?”

“By converting it into skills.

Skills are essentially habits – persistent neural patterns.

Learning is building knowledge. (input)
Learning is converting knowledge into skills. (output)

Learning is ultimately about converting passive knowledge into active knowledge.

On Knowledge 3

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is knowledge?”

“Knowledge is organized information.

I like to think of it as a network. A network has two components: nodes, and connections. In the knowledge network, the nodes represent potentially useful information, and the connections represent understanding.”

“So useless information is not knowledge?”

“Not in my view of it.”

“What if you don’t know whether a piece of information has the potential to be useful?”

“That’s a skill you can develop. Edward de Bono calls it ‘Value Sensitivity‘.

Useful information is instrumental. We might think of it as creative building-blocks.

The output of useful information – and of Thinking, more generally – is Creating Value. It can be in the form of problem-solving, optimization, conveying meaning, etc.

You can increase your knowledge in two ways: by creating more nodes, either through direct or indirect experiences [<link; medium], and by creating more connections between the nodes.”

“What about externally organized information. Does that count as knowledge?”

“We can make a distinction between internal and external knowledge. External knowledge is useful only insofar as it creates internal knowledge.

As Scott H. Young put it,

Knowledge that is not in your head can’t help you to solve problems.

On Knowledge 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the highest end of knowledge acquisition?”

Expressed as a principle, I call it Transfer.

The transfer of knowledge across domains and disciplines with the purpose of solving problems and creating value.


There are two types of geniuses.

Ordinary geniuses: Once we understand what they have done we feel certain that we, too, could have done it.

Magicians: Their mind works in inscrutable ways. Even after we understand what they have done, the process by which they have done it is completely dark.

Richard Feynman was a magician of the highest caliber.

(Mark Kac)

Feynmans’s magic was his incredible intuition, coming from years of playing with the patterns of math and physics. (Scott H. Young)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is a Magician?”

“Let’s take an example: the Chess Master. 

At high level, in the context of Chess, they can perform seemingly miraculous feats. 

Their magic, I think, has two main components:

Knowledge: They have internalized a vast collection of chess-specific patterns.
Retrieval: Not only do they have a lot of knowledge, but they can access it very effectively.

The important question is, how can they access it so effectively?”


“Intuition is indeed necessary but not sufficient. The other component is structure.

Unorganized knowledge is useless, because it is difficult to access.

By organizing the information, you index it, so to speak, which allows Intuition to do its magic more effectively.

Take a look at these two networks with identical nodes. What’s the difference between them?


“One has more connections than the other.”

“Using the Density [<link; short read] model, we could say one is denser than the other. I call this connection density.

Connections create structure. The more interconnected the information, the easier it is to retrieve – the more accessible it becomes.

This is a model. One piece of the puzzle.

Another piece also has to do with structure, but a different kind of structure.

Take a look at this little evolving network:

Increasing complexity

It starts with a simple network of three ideas. This network is encoded in concept1.
concept1 is used to form a network with three more ideas. This network is encoded in concept2.
concept2 is used to form a network with three more ideas. This network is encoded in concept3.
And so on.

With each new concept you’re creating, you’re operating at a higher-order level, which allows you to manage more and more complexity.

There’s a downside however: Intelligibility.

Imagine you communicated concept3 to someone. What do you imagine they’d understand?”

“They’d approximate it one of their own mental models, which may be very different from your own model.”

concept3 as a linguistic-unit is an explicit structure.
Its content, which is to say, all the ideas that make it up is an implicit structure.

We leave much of what we say implicit, because it feels obvious to us, often to the detriment of communication.

To an extent, this is warranted. The higher-order level you go, the more difficult it becomes to communicate without laborious explanation. That’s why I often provide links to past content on the blog – to provide context.”

“How can you solve this problem?”

“I don’t know yet. I take it as a design challenge.”

On Knowledge

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the highest end of knowledge acquisition?”

Turning passive-knowledge into active-knowledge.
Making knowledge useful by making it usable, and by actually using it.