Fundamental Set of Knowledge Structures


One of the key insights for understanding the calculus of sentience that I present on these pages is to understand the implications that knowledge is socially constructed.  The minute that you accept that, with all the implications of Conway’s Law (see the other masthead posts) the obvious conclusion is that for every evolution in basic social structure, there is a corresponding knowledge structure that emerges.  All higher knowledge structures contain the potential for inclusion of the lower structures.  Moving up just adds another meta-tool in the meta-toolbox.

Empathetic levels, besides driving the emergence, provide the level of connectivity and transmissibility for each of these knowledge structures.  Since the intent of the masthead posts is to give a brief summary, you’ll have to dig through at least a little bit of other posts to see why I came to the conclusions I have.

Without further ado,  here are the v-Meme/Knowledge Structure Pairs, with an example and physical analog.


With this table, one starts at the bottom.  After we move past no knowledge permanence at all (Survival v-Meme), we move up into Tribal/Magical Stories, Authority-based Knowledge, and Legalistic/Absolutistic Rules and Algorithms.  For the most part, these are all long-time data structures — and so you could lump them under ‘Beliefs’.  Or things not easily changed.  My friends, fellow professors and idea reflectors/generators, Jake Leachman and Kshitij Jerath, are working on applying the principles of thermodynamics to all of this.  For the purpose of the lay reader, though, one might map these data structures to ‘Solids’.  They don’t change without a lot of heat or pressure.

Above that are the more probabilistic data structures – heuristics, or rules of thumbs, that rely on independent agency and choice to be created. These, in a thermodynamic context, represent fluids — things that can change more easily, and be adjusted, or followed to different ends.

There are two lines on the chart.  The first is what I’ve coined as the Trust Boundary.  Above the Trust Boundary are relationships that depend on trust — or, really, independently sampled data validated by the initiators.  Below that are relationships that are defined by the culture or society that the individual has little choice but to accept.  Like the knowledge structures that create them, they are differentiated by Belief and Independent Data Collection, permanence and ephemerality.

The second line is Clare Graves’, Don Beck’s and Ken Wilber’s notion of Second Tier relational structures.  Second Tier thinking is characterized by a higher level of awareness, and willful feedback toward modification than present in the lower v-Memes.  Buddhists have a term for this — use of the ‘Third Eye’.  The ability to watch oneself directly influences knowledge structures, and introduces an indeterminacy and need for convergence before we’re sure we know what we know.  All the lower knowledge structures are essentially ‘open loop’ — it’s One and Done, once you’ve followed the pattern.  Above that, reflection plays a large part, and creates opportunity for evolution and modification.  If you need a modern physics analogy, think of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which says the observer essentially disturbs the system being observed.  Second Tier thinking is aware that this is true, and is also aware whether compensation is being applied.

These meta-structures form the building blocks for all human knowledge, and understanding each one (essentially fragment, narrative, historical fragment, rule set, heuristic and on up) allows one to break down how people think.  Which has many applications — first and foremost in education and communication.  If you’re trying to communicate with knowledge structures that your audience doesn’t have, or don’t match the level of developed relationship and timescale you’ve got with that person, you’re not going to have much luck!