Knowledge Federation

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Prospecting a research, innovation and social entrepreneurship frontier with an uncommon potential


In a nutshell

Knowledge Federation is a prototype transdiscipline – an institution whose role is similar to the role of the discipline (it produces knowledge), and which is capable of doing what the traditional disciplines don't do, namely putting things together and creating higher-order meaning (which is what we've called knowledge federation). So Knowledge Federation is a "transdiscipline for knowledge federation".

ALT: Knowledge Federation is a prototype of an institution, the transdiscipline, that is capable of developing the praxis of knowledge federation. While fulfilling the familiar functions of an academic disciplines, as well as certain new ones of course, the Knowledge Federation transdiscipline transcends the disciplinary division – which is easily identified as the problem, and hence cannot be the solution. A specific important role of Knowledge Federation is to provide a way in which knowledge media researchers and developers can meet and collaborate with field workers, systems scientists and other experts and stakeholders, to develop innovative systemic solutions in key areas such as journalism, science and education. (For illustration see Knowledge Federation community and Knowledge Federation – an enagbler of systemic innovation.)

Why Knowledge Federation?

In 1945 the scientific strategist par excellence Dr. Vannevar Bush pointed out that "publication has been extended far beyond our present ability to make real use of the record", and urged the scientists to find entirely new technology-enabled ways to organize and share knowledge. And in 1951, the IT / knowledge media inventor par excellence Dr. Douglas Engelbart foresaw that network-interconnected digital media would enable us to "harness a technological and social nervous system to improve the IQ of our various organizations" — and in that way become able to understand and solve our increasingly complex and urgent problems.

What would it take to make substantial progress on the creative frontier that Bush and Engelbart were pointing to? A moment of reflection will suffice to see that the conventional approach to academic research — where we publish research articles in a specialized domain of interest – will not be an answer.

It is best to think of Knowledge Federation as the answer to this question by definition. And of the present Knowledge Federation as a research prototype, that is as a current, and continuously evolving answer. The purpose of Knowledge Federation is to structure and streamline the work on the creative frontier where the corresponding praxis — which we call knowledge federation — is being developed.

Our profile

There are a growing number of communities and projects we are aware of that share at least some of the goals of Knowledge Federation, which are to:

  • Organize knowledge resources
  • Create a living society — whose institutions are capable of evolving and improving
  • Bring creativity and innovation to bear upon basic societal structures such as public informing, governance, academic research, education...
  • Open up vast new areas to research and entrepreneurship
  • Inspire a warranted sense of renewed opportunities and optimism about the future
  • Contribute decisively to resolution of global issues by initiating entry into a new phase of progress
  • Create knowledge that matters

Knowledge Federation profiles itself by its focus on systemic innovation. Knowledge Federation complements and augments the existing good work by providing an organizational space where researchers, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders from a variety of communities and professions can join forces with knowledge media researchers and developers, and develop radically better systemic solutions. The core purpose of Knowledge Federation is to enable elegant and bold moves to improve key real-world systems. As a transdiscipline, Knowledge Federation develops the technical tools and the ways of working that are suitable for that purpose.

In Knowledge Federation, we focus on systems, not on problems. While problems tend to be forbiddingly complex and unyielding to control, systems — such as education, science and journalism – offer abundant opportunities for improvement.

Our Situation Today

The task that naturally comes first is to draw attention to the knowledge federation frontier, and point to spectacular improvements that can be achieved. If you imagine the knowledge federation frontier as a new continent that has become available for exploration and development, then you may imagine a lighthouse showing the way to its landing post. Hence we chose to showcase our growing collection of anecdotes and insights as Knowledge Federation Lighthouse.

In this exploration we found numerous instances where insights of central importance to our civilization have been reached and published, often by our greatest and most respected minds, which could have literally changed the course of our societal and cultural evolution — which had practically no effect on our collective understanding and action. And that all too often, information technology has been used to make things worse.

This invites us to dramatize the current state of affairs on our creative frontier (where information technology is used as enabler to develop "a technological and social nervous system to improve the IQ of our various organizations") by improvising the following parable.

Imagine that by a strange mishap of evolution an odd sort of creature emerged.

Having grown incredibly fast and correspondingly large, this creature has enormously powerful muscles, and a similarly large and developed brain. Its also has a finely developed nervous system, perfectly capable of doing what a nervous system should do – connecting its sensory organs with its brain, and its brain with its muscles. But there the evolution somehow got retarded, so that the organs of the creature have not yet developed the ability to take advantage of this nervous system to coordinate their function.

A result is that only a small fraction of what this creature's eyes see can contribute to the world picture created in its mind. And that its mind has little or no control over its powerful muscles!

The creature has demonstrated an ability to feel compassion, even love. Yet its actions seem to be motivated by most primitive and unpredictable impulses.

This creature is an alarming menace — against which our weapons are powerless!

You have surely guessed why — this creature is our civilization.

What We Do

The task of Knowledge Federation is to structure and streamline the evolution of our collective nervous system.

You may imagine us as a collection of cells who — having noticed that the organism we are part of lacks a certain core capability — undertook to adapt and self-organize to develop it.

Hence our work is on two levels, where

  • we develop creative projects that further this evolution
  • we continue to learn and self-organize, to better perform our re-evolutionary role

Through a series of events, Knowledge Federation has self-organized as a transdiscipline, where knowledge media researchers and developers can join forces with experts in a suitable variety of disciplines, domain workers and other stakeholders, to re-create the conventional systemic structures and practices in a domain. Our focus has been on core areas in knowledge work — science, education and public informing.

Our characteristic approach is to develop systemic prototypes — each of which serves as

  • a model, showcasing an innovative systemic solution in a domain
  • an experiment, showing how our solution meets the world and how it may need to be improved
  • a strategic collaborative action space that organizes us in transforming the domain

The two projects-and-prototypes that are being developed and launched currently —

  • Tesla and the Nature of Creativity, which shows how a research result can be federated and
  • Collaborology course, as an instance of internationally federated education,

illustrate this approach particularly well.

Our vision

It has been said that nobody can be as smart or as knowledgeable as all of us together.

This, however, is an ideal state of affairs, that our actual condition does not even approximate. Again and again we see that we have insightful individuals, and communities, but that our large collective self remains ignorant. The AI people talk about the "singularity" — the point in evolution at which the machines will become smarter than us humans. The vision we work towards is a different kind of singularity — where our collective intelligence has surpassed our individual intelligences.

The vision that motivates Knowledge Federation is simply of an informed Information Age — where information and information technology are serving the purposes they need to fulfill in our society. Where they fulfill their core function in a nervous system of a coherently evolving and acting social organism.

Our generation is facing an opportunity and challenge of unprecedented dimensions: To engender a similarly revolutionary progress in our societal and cultural evolution in this century, as we did by harnessing the powers of nature through science and technology in the past one. By working hands-on on our 'collective nervous system', we undertake to give our strategic and concerted contribution.

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