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19th May 2018 - Knowledge Acquisition Methodology

The NSW government is proposing “decluttering” the school syllabus.

The minister say the change will be focused on knowledge acquisition.

What can KM offer?

Some random thoughts on knowledge acquisition methodologies.

Teaching language and literature is quite different to teaching about knowledge acquisition.

What is knowledge, and why is acquiring it worthwhile? When can I reliably backconstruct? How should human limitations be managed in acquiring knowledge?

English is a strange beast – monstrous ambiguity lurks behind the curtain – words have on average three meanings, with one standout having 74 meanings.

Grammar sounds nice, until you see there are roughly 70 categories of words that have multiple parts of speech. Some have thousands of members, some there is only one instance –

Noun and verb – cost, costs

Preposition, adjective, verb – absent (slowly seeping into Australian English)

Pronoun, noun, verb, determiner(?) - mine

One instance can be hard to work out – put a string of them together and it becomes very hard to disambiguate. When there are a large number of alternatives and time is short, do you make a simple connection, and go back and clean it up later?

Words or phrases acquire new meanings overnight – woke, #MeToo, fake news.

This brings up the analogy of a garden, where new growth is sprouting all the time, and dead wood needs to be constantly pruned away, and occasionally you realise that two different-looking plants are of the same species. A continuous process of generalisation and integration.

A noun can be referring to an action, a state of being, an end state, an end result or a process – it can be quite sophisticated to work out how it is being used. Or the noun spawned the verb – bat, he batted it away – then the verb spawned a noun – the batting was awful.

Some teaching about disambiguation and an introduction to processes might be useful.

Learning new knowledge – how to go about it. How should you go about acquiring a new field of knowledge – many of the words you already know take on a new meaning, which is subtly different from the meaning you know, and sometimes the knowledge is weird – you can find no basis for it in anything you know – quantum mechanics.

As an aside, an interesting definition

                Beater: a dilapidated but serviceable car

The definition, in a few words, sets up a dynamic tension between two incompatible relations. It is a good example of active learning, where the structure can be used to determine how much dilapidation is allowable – rusting body panels or a smashed driver’s side window or a broken fuel gauge are fine, whereas a smashed windscreen or a door falling off or all the brake fluid leaking out are not.

Simple things like this can be rolled around in the head, and show the power of language, compared to the dullness of machine learning.

How does a word represent a cloud of things –

Lamp: a device for giving light, either one consisting of an electric bulb together with its holder and shade or cover, or one burning gas or a liquid fuel and consisting of a wick or mantle and a glass shade

 This brings up the problem of how does a pronoun work? How does a simple object point to a complex object consisting of many objects not in a neat box, and how are boundaries enforced?

The patient has a job in marketing.

The patient can no longer swallow solids containing gluten due to an allergic reaction causing gagging.

This has impacted his quality of life.

“this” points to the previous sentence. Presumably humans use some fancy marking around sentences to allow the boundary of the sentence to be respected – the boundary extending to the logical connections - “can no longer”. But it also works for paragraphs and chapters.

Would it be a good idea to talk about such things, or should the subconscious be left to work its magic in peace?

What about predictive models versus statistical models, and why one is preferable over the other?

Maybe these things are already covered in modern pedagogy?

Garden of Knowledge

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