an application to navigate complexity and foster emergence

for the time being this will be the last techy/math-ish post – i have some delicious pending posts on perception, body and patterns that i will dive into over xmas…

story/field-credits: when @nathanielspohn approached me on thoughts around the creation of a virtual KaosPilot library weeks ago it got me thinking in that way first… and yesterday him and @MortenFuglsang invited my thoughts again around making the virtual book/media library somehow more relational/semantic. charged with excitement about resonance on @wwjimd, Dan S.’s and @sebpaquet’s thoughts and feeling motivated to think in that way through being in space of inspiration and resonance with @ddrrnt, @jonasthanatos and @ozarkherbs my inner processor couldn’t stop breeding this up to this stage. It is related in me very much to #socialprocessor/#socialalgorithms and thoughts on stimulating decentralized user engagement in The World Cafe Community…

it’s funny… either this thing is already there and might just be what semantic web is all about… OR it has mindblowing-awesome potential… please sink deep into this (beyond my words about it!!) and then tell me honestly what you think :) it might continue to develop in me and i will try other forms of expressing it like video/graphics…

first of all – if it takes off, it WILL transcend my scope. it has to. At the moment this application combines in my imagination everything of a library with a toolbox, with a blackboard, a forum, a messaging system, any kind of knowledge or resource pool… and much more… and all that in a very simple architecture (yeah, how simple actually??) that allows and actually requires collectively intelligent self-organization. i see it developing its own life and acting similar to a brain… it’s fractal and has not one but endless centers. at the moment it helps me thinking about a library of resources and its intelligent organization, but wild outbursts in my imagination can expand the core of this to all domains of mapping stuff and navigating it… and on the way of making things, relationships, cluster and networks visible; fostering emergence of new…

please listen through the words; it is all beautifully floating in front of my inner eye – the words and examples i chose are shallow in comparison. maybe i am not using the “right” words… in invite you to be liquid in your listening :)

it is a space/field/pool where anyone can submit items. that can be a song, video, book, question, link, process/project tool, an offer of room to rent, a tweet…

anyone can attach information/tags to items. so for study-books tags like “leadership”, “3rd year”, “physically present: at Benjamins home”.

a bunch of tags can be tagged (like categories). so all tags related to books have the meta-tag “book”, but some under it also relate to sub-tags of “video”

the item of “item + specific tag” can be tagged itself (just like you relate to me, my blog and this idea right now)

as the pool complexifies and diverse items are floating in it and the holarchy of tags has been growing – you can only navigate meaningful through search. so within the vast ocean you can fish for “books”, “3rd year”, “physically present: amongst students (which targets to the group of students that has been tagged as such)”. you can save the search/filter and get a direct URL that you can send to students as reading-list for instance. you can combine searches with other searches and save those as well.

clusters of search-filters will be as important as the items. every search-filter and cluster is an item itself that can be tagged. combinations of search-filters and items and tags can be tagged and become new items. just like you perceive things “in the light of…” and that swirls of into another line of association.

relationships between items/clusters can be tagged and clustered.

basically item = tag = search = relationship, they all are getting treated the same way.

nothing is given (besides the most simple architecture?). the system is set up to evolve, self-organize and develop its breath of complexifying and simplifying.

the PAST is all the information in the system. the NOW is what you make of it as you search, dig, expand, connect it. the FUTURE comes in as you throw out expectation-tags to a whole cluster. a bubble of potential where you expect things to expand into. so for instance, if it turns out to be meaningful to have a new version of tags that indicates “time sensitivity”; for instance “till exam” or a message-item (that others can supplement/amplify with comment-tags/like-tags as on FB) you send to someone and you want him to see that timely. you can throw out a call to tag stuff according to this new tag. a new tag version could be one that requires an organic input like a quick intuitive 1sec response with your finger on your trackpad to draw an intuitive response to an item. or to wave into the camera… so as the system gets charged with organic associations you can search through it with intuitive “organic queries”…

based on statistic functions the system can map you out possible re-combinations/alternative branches besides the one present/chosen/manifested. you can seed those empty spaces of possibilities out as expectation tags… like in my favorite calculation of subgroups within a group ;)

every item/tag/search has its own history that tracks in which combination/relation the piece is finding itself. the rhythm/pattern in that can be matched up through meta-algorithms that scan for patterns system-wide. those are derivatives of search-filter-clusters > intelligent search.

each item/tag/search/cluster gets its own history (huge amount of data?) and has an indicator how many items/clusters it is embedded in vertically and horizontally in the holarchy (Wilber).

i imagine that a process like The World Cafe for instance would have an item as a whole (and be tagged under “social technologies” and related to… and so on) and would ALSO be itemized into its parts that are connected through tags of relational qualities. in that way both the whole and the parts are available and can get re-patterned horizontally and vertically.

the notion of metaphors/analogies/universal-patterns/dynamics will be strongly present and will evolve into the core attractors whose tags you find in endless items as they come before the expression/manifestation. so one item that says “contraction” will be related to a muscle activity, to a psychological effect and to a nations reaction and so on…

and once a repository is full and rich, besides endless search-possibilities there will be amazing opportunities for visualizations and meta-algorithms that scan for patterns across everything..


does this make any sense? how do you like it? what software is available, what would need to be programmed? what is the most simple and elegant way to prototype this…


Published by

Benjamin Aaron Degenhart

Currently pursuing a Masters in Computational Science and Engineering at TU Munich.

7 thoughts on “an application to navigate complexity and foster emergence”

  1. Benjamin

    Reading this I was reflecting on knowledge and knowledge creation. In business schools knowledge management studies often reference a model in which we distinguish between
    data – symbols or signs representing stimuli or signals
    information – data from which meaning or purpose is inferred
    knowledge – information that has been processed or structured
    wisdom – knowing the right things to do.

    I find your idea of ‘expectation-tags’ a very interesting opening to move beyond data and information to create a context for collective knowledge- and wisdom- sharing and creation. I am certain you are on the right track with idea of use of metaphor which I find the most powerful tool for collaborative knowledge exploration.

    So a library becomes a context in which the ‘readers’ together create meaning as well as absorb information.

    I have no idea what this means in terms of software or simplifying but this is a really intersting thread!


    1. thank you Simon, appreciate your presence here!

      wonderful, i love the simplicity and clarity in the line of data – information – knowledge – wisdom. would be interesting though to bring an emotional axe in and how complexity breeds simplicity through entanglements collapsing into new coherent meaning-pieces…

      glad you resonate with the expectation-tags, the most juicy part here… i just added one paragraph in the text above that gives it more mathematical “ground” with statistic functions to map out possible re-combinations…
      and YES, out metaphor connection Simon!! i noticed that, brilliant! for me metaphors are narratives directly told from the process-creature (wrote about that in the post before this one) itself, dancing on the threshold between imagination and expression…

      exactly… sort of an intelligent organic library that requires collectively intelligent self-organization.


  2. Well done! And Welcome! We are assembling for missions of this sort, right now. We already have powerful intellectual and software intelligence tools (classification, tagging, counting) developed and honed over years of practice. We are just about to apply them to Twitter flows. A next step could be to show you what we are doing with our Open Intelligence and OM4X projects, including the software. (BTW I understand from DCoda that you and she have both sweated with Wolf . I wonder if he pours the Lodges which George Por goes to, as well … it is strange how spiritual links can happen in parallel with the knowledge / Web links. George nearly came here over the New Year period, and we do Lodges with a Druidic tinge in a sacred woodland.) I suggest a Skype conversation with Dan, Dcoda, Simon and myself would be useful. Jan


  3. Thanks for this Benjamin.

    The part that most resonates with me is the conception of all ideas being unified somehow, emerging from our intuition and manifesting in the world through our interaction with the system.

    The more time I spend on the web, the more I feel like I’m consciously creating these little meaningful social objects that are sometimes able to connect to others, come alive and grow, and at other times die on the vine – which is no big deal, as imagination has few limits.

    For instance, when you coin a new term and use it as a hashtag and it takes on a life on its own, something interesting happened there. You can let it go and revisit a while later.

    Now, when you create such an object you can imbue it with a measure of intent, give it some initial connections, and that influences the impact it will have ultimately.

    In a way we’re talking about an art of knowledge gardening.

    Overall what you outline is close to my understanding of the Semantic Web vision. The critical question lies in filtering so you are not flooded by things you don’t understand. My belief is that this will initially be achieved socially, by cooperation within self-organizing tribes. Perhaps as AI grows stronger there will need to be less human effort.


  4. Thanks Benjamin,

    from a technical point of view I see a lot of possible useful applications.

    Joining all the tag-cloud information to a three-dimensional map you could easily navigate through all sorts of exciting media (see for a map of music and movies). What makes your idea special is that using tags you no longer stick tags on one concrete piece of media but also on top of multiple media and on top of that, etc.
    So basically, we are tagging concepts and ideas instead of pictures and songs. Interestingly, the whole thing is fractal as you say, because a tagged media can also be a text.
    Example: that text itself can contain an overview of let’s say medieval music, it is tagged “medieval music”. The same tag can also apply to a CD, an article on a festival or pictures of a traverse flute, etc. The tag “medieval music” is tagged “medieval” which is also applied to “medieval history”, “medieval europe”, etc.

    Now there are some issues which I find challenging:

    Motivation: To gather valuable information you need a lot of input which means a lot of users spending time on tagging stuff. You have to motivate each user to create and use tags.

    Dictionary: In order to tag a piece of information you need a smart dictionary of known tags. Each tag might be ambiguous “key” (key for the door, or the key in which a song is written) or there might be equivalent tags “Middle Ages” and “medieval”.
    So in order to ensure the quality of the dictionary you will need a lot of manual work.

    Integration of information: You will need either a website “plugin” similar to the facebook “like” button or a piece of client software (browser plugin) to tag. The whole thing gets more complicated if you wish to tag the relation of multiple links and/or tags, because then you first need to gather all the links and/or tags at one spot and then apply a tag to it.

    Changing meaning of tags: It will not be easy to tag the relation of exactly four people, e.g. James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett… as “Metallica”. As a user of the tagging system I would probably tag each person itself as “Metallica”. But then there are some CDs, videos and interviews they made/gave which would also be tagged “Metallica”. So your “exclusive” tag is now less exclusive and would have to be differentiated to “is active member of Metallica”. That is also a point where the tag system might technically support you, but you still have to do it manually.

    Nevertheless I think the idea is worth following.


    1. wow, thanks so much guys! such richness in your replies!
      thanks Markus, so glad you show up here :)

      i will reply on content soon.
      i added a paragraph on “indicators of position in holarchy” in the post above.

      and a thought: build systems with simple and elegant architecture that are set up to evolve beyond the scope of the creator. evolutionary software/systems/networks/groups needs to transcend the creators consciousness. it is NOT collective intelligence if I/YOU can think it.
      WikiLeaks > InnerLeaks // OpenSource > InnerSource > OurSource > OurInnerSource…

      for wholeness in conversation here a manual CROSS POST from replies to this post in Zaq’s FB group:

      Seb Paquet: In terms of implementation, this doesn’t feel like a vision that could happen all at once. I would expect piecemeal growth, with each piece being able to stand on the basis of the value it brings to users. Diigo/delicious and Quora and Twitter are functional but prototypical pieces.

      Angela Hamilton: Wow! I really like the visualizations that scan for pattern. I’ve been asking around (starting with Zaq) about how to create something that would track the growth of relationships over time. From a living systems point of view, the growth of relationships could be a tool for measuring the sustainability and interdependence/interconnectedness of a system.


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