Knowledge Bootstrapping

Nikita Voloboev
Feb 14, 2017 · 5 min read

The more deep I dive into attempting to map and understand everything that exists around me, the more I realize just how much I don’t know and don’t understand. However mapping knowledge in this new way is immensely beneficial. I don’t have to rely on my brain’s imagination for what the ‘picture of the world’ looks like. Because I have it in front of me, in all its visual glory.

This isn’t a post about how amazing this world is for what it has to offer though. This is my attempt at answering any question as to ‘why?’ I decided to conduct all of my research and most of my notes in a very public way and share it all. There may be parts of my ‘notes’ that will seem questionable or perhaps ‘funny’ to some people. And that’s okay. What I want, is to provide a basis for knowledge and connect it all together in a way that makes sense. But above all, I want to take the notion of open source software a bit further and attempt to make open knowledge a thing. Currently most knowledge that is being shared comes in bursts of texts, such as blog posts or small tweets. Or perhaps longer forms like books or research papers. Authors try to condense what they know into a sizable chunk that they can then share with the world. However there is some friction present in this approach. You never really know, when you are ‘ready’ to make this blog post. What do you want to write about that hasn’t been already written?

What if you could completely share your thinking process with the world?

We live in an extremely interconnected world. What I write right now, can be read in any place of the world at all times. The only issue, is the language barrier and discoverability. You have to be provided a link to this article from some place. Either recommendation from someone, suggestion from Medium or you have managed to type a query in Google that will match this article to what you are looking for. As I have said before, search engines are immensely powerful, but only if you know what you are looking for. You need to form a question first, to get some kind of answer. The good thing is that there is an immense amount of great questions that you can ask with even more rewarding answers. The bad thing, is that most people including myself don’t know that such amazing questions even exist. They were not exposed to this knowledge.

The amount of websites and information that has been indexed by search engines is staggering. Everything you say on the internet stays there like non erasable ink. Every question you ask and every answer you provide already pushes our sum of collective knowledge further. It is Google’s job to organize it all and provide you with the interface to query all this knowledge. Google is not the only thing you can use though to find your answers. I am very fond of site specific searches. That is I very often search for something on GitHub directly. Perhaps I want to find an implementation of some algorithm or idea in code. This way of discovery is very powerful because if you can translate some idea into code, it means you have managed to make it work. You not only understood it on some high level but you have implemented it and you know what makes this idea work in practice and what doesn’t. Reading through the code and attempting to implement your idea in code is the best thing you can do for your understanding of the problem or concept. But once again, you have to know what you are looking for. What problems or ideas do exist out there in the world for you to go and explore and solve? Where would one even start?

What if you could take on a mind of another person, see all the difficulties that he has been through and all of his discoveries? What if you could carry on where he left off so you don’t have to start from scratch in your journey? You can take all the pieces he has collected and tried to make sense of and see what paths you can take. It’s then much easier to choose a direction with which you can go.

That in essence, is the answer as to ‘why’ I decided to publish and upload all of my research public and keep it constantly updated. I also do it in a unique and visual way where I first outline everything that I know exists and what is interesting and attempt to connect all the separate ideas together as I do research on each one of these specific ideas in depth. Each node in the graph is another graph of nodes and information and resources and notes. I do annotations over everything I read, books, articles, research papers. I mark what I thought was interesting and usually say why. I mark the important points and try to condense videos into very succinct summaries. I mark all of the websites I use, all the snippets of code that I find useful. I share my favorite discoveries and my favorite images. Everything I have collected, mapped in my own way, shared with all.

To add more to this, I will also be sharing all of the Anki decks that I have created as I try to translate all this knowledge from the mind map into my memory for processing. I make the cards very specific and serve one purpose of trying to remember answers to questions that I have had so that I don’t ask the same questions over and over and start asking new ones. You need a very powerful base of understanding to actually solve or even attempt to solve some of the more exciting problems that exist in this world. The most exciting of which I think is creating general artificial intelligence. It is inevitable and is only a matter of time where one can make a machine capable of self improvement similar to human. Machine that is not biologically bounded both by memory and its capabilities. Solving the problem of what makes humans conscious and capable of reasoning and self reflection is immensely fascinating and hard. It is a shame that first you have to spend years of your life understanding all of this mathematics and theory to try to even understand how can a machine possibly learn? How do thoughts arise? What is consciousness?

I am really grateful that I have the opportunity to answer these questions or at least attempt my best to answer them. And where I and other people have failed, the next generation of humans will take what we know and have found out and use that to find more and more things. As number of contributions to this sum of all knowledge grows, the rate at which we progress as species will increase exponentially.

We are all one interconnected organism who for the most part share very similar goals of both inner and outer world discovery. Let’s share these discoveries we have made and work collectively to solve the problems that we have in front of us.

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