The Architecture of Knowledge

By Chanel Dehond. M.Arch. B.A.S.

Figure 1. “The Five Methodologies” by Chanel Dehond
…As we know, there are known knowns; there are things that we know that we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know. — Donald Rumsfeld(1)

The approximation of academia is the process of making unknowns, knowns. To some, this pursuit gives meaning to existence. To others, it delineates a proximity to the divine. And to Sir Francis Bacon, “knowledge is power”(2). Despite the subjectivity of why, the conversion of unknowns to knowns has an associative methodology (Figure 1).

The Five Methodologies

Discovery (X1):

The shortest conversion of Unknown Unknowns to Known Knowns is through the discovery — an unexpected find.

In 1939, Percy Spencer was touring one of his laboratories at the Raytheon Company and paused in front of a magnetron — an electron tube that amplifies and generates the microwaves in an active radar — and the chocolate bar in his pocket began to melt. Following this initial discovery, Percy Spencer held popcorn kernels adjacent to the magnetron and induced the world’s first microwaved popcorn.(3)

The discovery is the mediation between the unmeasurable and the measurable. At once, Percy Spencer — who was unaware of the effect of microwaves on chocolate — became aware.

Series (X2):

The series is an organization of things with formal or functional resemblances, sequenced to manufacture knowledge. The series has blurred ends, as “it must either recede to a time infinitely remote or have been started by some magical act of creation.”(4) It is “turtles all the way down”(5).

The series is the conversion of Unknown Unknowns to Known Unknowns — Known Unknowns being the things we know that we don’t know. That is to say, we know there is death, but we don’t know what follows. The series becomes a powerful apparatus, fashioning substance out of oblivion.

In 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev developed his extended version of the periodic table, which sequenced elements according to atomic weight and valence. It was through this series that Dmitri Mendeleev could predict the existence of eight unknown elements with atomic weights between 65 and 75. In 1875 and 1886, two of the Known Unknowns were converted into Known Knowns through experimentation. Ga (gallium) and Ge (germanium) were proved to fill two of the void spaces in the periodic table.(6)

The series is the intermediate degree between the unmeasurable and the measurable, detecting unknowns or ‘holes’ within a set of knowns. “…Comparisons through and between series allowed them (evolutionists) successfully to predict missing links.”(7)

Experiment (X3):

The series is then superseded by the experiment — a scientific procedure undertaken to prove a hypothesis. The experiment is the conversion of Known Unknowns to Known Knowns. The typical structure of this conversion is exemplified by the lab report.

In 1964, physicist Peter Higgs proposed the existence of the Higgs Boson — a particle that gives mass to other particles. In 2013, after more than 40 years of experimentation and approximately “6.4 billion dollars”(8), the Higgs Boson was tentatively confirmed.(9)

The experiment is subsequent to Known Unknowns. It is only until an idea comes to fruition that it can be tested and proved.

Intuition (X4):

The alternative method of converting unknowns, to knowns is through intuition and pursuance.

The intuition is the conversion of Unknown Unknowns to Unknown Knowns — an unconscious understanding.

In Asian cultures, there is a phenomenon called the conception dream, in which a woman or man prophesies their own, or a relatives pregnancy prior to an administered test. The conception dream — still commonly used in Korea — determines the gender and future of a baby. Symbols such as; fruit — a girl — animals, nature, children and jewels are common subject matter.(10)

This premonition exemplifies Unknown Knowns by acknowledging the conception of a life, without hard evidence.

Pursuance (X5):

The intuition is followed by the pursuance, a conversion of Unknown Knowns to Known Knowns. The pursuance is defined as a carrying out of an action.

In the former example, Unknown Unknowns are converted into Unknown Knowns through the conception dream. In order to prove the existence of a baby, the potential carrier pursues the intuition by administering a pregnancy test (6–12 days after fertilization).

The pursuance proves the intuition by converting the unknown variable into a known variable.

In Conclusion

The procurement of knowledge manifests itself within variations on these five methodologies: the discovery, the series, the experiment, the intuition, and the pursuance.

The series and the experiment are classified under the rationalists’ approach — a method of basing truths in reason, as opposed to experience — while the intuition and the pursuance are classified under the empiricists’ approach– a method of deriving truths from experience, in contrary to reason.(11) Ipso facto, the series and the experiment are revered in scholarly disciplines, as their incarnations have been practiced and prototyped. Academia is derived from the rationalists’ approach, however the architecture of knowledge exceeds these limitations.

***

  1. “United States Department of Defense.” Defense.gov Transcript: DoD News Briefing, accessed June 17, 2014, http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=2636.
  2. Francis Bacon, John Jaggard and William Jaggard, Essaies.; Religious meditations.; Places of perswasion and disswasion (printed at London: [By William Jaggard] for Iohn Iaggard, dwelling in Fleet-streete at the Hand and Starre neere Temple barre., 1606).
  3. Daven Hiskey, “The Microwave Oven Was Invented by Accident by a Man Who was Orphaned and Never Finished Grammar School.” Today I Found Out: Feed Your Brain, accessed October 12,2014, http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/08/the-microwave-oven-was-invented-by-accident-by-a-man-who-was-orphaned-and-never-finished-grammar-school/.
  4. J. W. Dunne, “Part I: The Theory of Serialism.” in The serial universe (London: Faber & Faber, Limited, 1934), 23–24.
  5. “Turtles all the way down” is a jocular expression of infinite regress, originating in folklore. There are many versions of the anecdote, though all begin as conversations between two individuals. One individual tells the other that the world sits on a turtle, and when asked what that turtle sits on, the individual responds with “another turtle”. The anecdote continues and concludes with the exclamation that it is “turtles all the way down.”
  6. John Emsley, Nature’s building blocks: an A-Z guide to the elements (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 521–522.
  7. Jim Secord, Nick Hopwood and Simon Schaffer “Display, Audiences, Evolution” in Seriality and scientific objects in the nineteenth century (Cambridge: Science History Publ., 2010), 266.
  8. Alex Santoso,“10 Things About the Large Hadron Collider You Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask.” Neatorama, accessed October 17, 2014, http://www.neatorama.com/2008/09/12/10-things-about-the-large-hadron-collider-you-wanted-to-know-but-were-afraid-to-ask/.
  9. Cian O’Luanaigh, “CERN Accelerating science.” New results indicate that new particle is a Higgs boson, accessed October 17, 2014, http://home.web.cern.ch/about/updates/2013/03/new-results-indicate-new-particle-higgs-boson.
  10. Roger M. Knudson, “ASD International Conference.” ASD International Conference, accessed October 18, 2014, http://www.asdreams.org/2003/abstracts/nah-ree_doh.htm.
  11. Dunne, The serial universe, 13–16.