Posts Tagged ‘Knowledge’

Domains of Knowledge

May 20, 2016

Healthymemory has used this phrase in at least one prior blog post and feels it incumbent upon him to elaborate.  Healthyemory has argued that it is science or rather the scientific method that is responsible for the rapid advancement of the species.  However, Healthymemory has also argued that there are other domains of knowledge and that to be stuck in one level of knowledge is to be an intellectual runt.

Perhaps this can best be illustrated by healthymemory’s  academic discipline, psychology.  This is scientific psychology as opposed to clinical or counseling psychology, although those disciplines can and do make use of the scientific method.  Psychological science is practiced in a wide variety of areas.  Let us start at the bottom and work our way up.  At the most molecular level are psychologists who do studies with animals, then take biological assays of the brains to see how the brains changed as the result of learning.  Then there are studies in which electrodes are placed in the brains of animals and research is done to determine which structures accomplish what.  Human brains are studied using EEGs and a variety of brain imaging techniques to examine how the brain functions.  As a result many cognitive psychology programs are renaming themselves as cognitive neuroscience programs.  Then there are studies of human learning, memory, language processing, concept formation, problem solving and so forth.  At the group  level studies are done regarding the interactions among individuals and team performance.  There are also industrial and organizational programs, which study psychological processes in business and industry.  Moreover this listing is not exhaustive.

Each of these areas use scientific methods, but the scientific method needs to be applied differently depending upon the specific area of investigation.  Studying these different areas provides a wide understanding of the scientific method.  Healthy memory’s personal experience working with many scientists and engineers, is that they understand how to do good science in their specific areas, but that this knowledge often does not transfer to other areas of investigation.  This is why healthy memory argues  that scientific psychology is a good major if the goal is to develop a thorough knowledge of the scientific method.

However, Healthymemory argues that if you want to understand people, then literature would be a better method.  Literature increases empathy, the ability to think and feel as others think and feel.  As everyone is different it is best to read literature dealing with as many different people as possible.  This constitutes an important domain of knowledge that is important for interacting with our fellow human beings.

Theater is a related discipline that develops the same strengths.  This is particularly true if one actually gets into acting where the requirement is to be, to think and act like a specific individual.

Then there is music, which involves the sense of hearing.  And music provides enjoyment and access to a wide range of emotional feelings.
Then there is dancing and learning to express oneself through movements of the body.

And there are athletics each with its own domain of athletic skills.

This list could go on and on, and we could discuss and argue as to what activities, areas of knowledge should qualify as domains of knowledge.

Perhaps the simplest cut is between science and the humanities.  Much has been discussed and argued about these two cultures.  The important point is that they exist and they both need to be appreciated. Another domain, which needs to be included, is the spiritual domain.  Religions and beliefs are present in all cultures, and they provide another needed domain of knowledge.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


The Absurdity of College Costs

September 15, 2015

How did this happen?  Today graduates need to begin their lives saddled with a ridiculous amount of debt.  Parents need to dig into their retirement accounts, either delaying or forgoing retirement, to provide an education for their children.

When I did my undergraduate work at Ohio State University (OSU) college was affordable, and at that time Ohio did not have a state income tax.  Now it does, but students are finding private colleges more affordable than OSU! This is an outrage!  State universities have an obligation to provide an affordable education to its residents.  When a private college can provide a more affordable education, something is seriously wrong.

Colleges and Universities need to be questioned why costs are increasing.  Technology provides the means to reduce costs significantly.  Are the making use of this technology?  Are they using it effectively?  Also remember that colleges and universities avail themselves of cheap labor, namely adjunct faculty and graduate students, who work for ridiculously low wages.

I believe that one of the problems is that colleges and universities have burdened themselves with unnecessarily heavy overheads that contribute virtually nothing directly to education. The problem is that they are bureaucracies, and bureaucracies  grow.  It’s in their nature.  Northcotte Parkinson, famous for his law that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”, is also famous for his study of how  bureaucracies   grow unnecessarily.  I’ve worked in such bureaucracies and have watched this meaningless growth.  Given modern IT, bureaucracies should decrease, but instead they increase.  It’s inherent to bureaucracies to grow themselves.

Moreover, the issue should go beyond affordability.  Higher education should be free.  The results of the GI Bill provide ample evidence for this.  Most of the post war prosperity can be attributed to the higher educational achievements who were able to use the GI bill.  Any debts incurred in providing free higher education will be wiped out by increases in productivity.   Read or reread the healthy memory blog post “Why Information Grows.”  The answer to why countries succeed, it is due to knowledge and know how.

Read or reread the healthy memory blog post “2015 Labor Day Post.”  The future should be characterized by continuing education throughout one’s lifetime.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Why Information Grows

September 1, 2015

“Why Information Grows” is the first part of a title than continues “The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies” is a new and highly creative book by Cesar Hidalgo, a statistical physicist at the MIT Media Lab.  Readers of the healthy memory blog should be aware of the problems of mainstream economics.  First of all, the assumption of rational man is wrong, and that problem is being gradually addressed by behavioral economics.  Then there is the problem of the inadequacy of the primary dependent variable used in economics, Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Contemporary economics has also had difficulty  explaining how economies grow.   Dr. Hidalgo addresses this shortcoming in a remarkably creative manner.

The special sauce that Hidalgo offers is knowledge and knowhow, and knowledge and knowhow is defined in terms of physical order.  Hidalgo regards nature as a big computer that has been growing information for billions of years.  The physical incarnation is nature as we know it.  We humans further this growth via the crystallization of knowledge.  This crystallization  of knowledge is defined by physical order.  This physical order can be found in research papers and plans designed to take us to the moon.  The arrangement of atoms, their physical order, their crystallization of knowledge can be defined in the rockets, modules, and other materials developed to take human to the moon to return successfully.

Personbytes refer to the amount of information that can be contained in an individual human.  This information is constrained.  It can be aggregated at higher levels into firmbytes, which are also constrained, but much less so.  The success of countries or economies are the direct product of crystalized knowledge and knowhow.

These ideas are quite new, they are in an infant state, if you will,and they hold much promise not only for economics, but also for us humans and how successfully we are able to interact with the world.

At this point some readers might be thinking, this is all very good, but what has this to do with a healthy memory?   I summarize books for a variety of reasons.  I think they contain information that is useful.  Economics is a discipline that affects us directly and has some notable shortcomings.  So these reviews include information that I think would be good for readers to know.

However, they are also relevant to a healthy memory.    Keeping a memory healthy requires continual learning to build new memory circuits in the brain.  In this respect, this particular book not only builds new memory circuits, but also establishes new relationships among the sciences.  This book builds new relationships between physics and economics, so it is especially valuable.  Of course, there is significant benefit to be gained by not only regarding this blog, but also by reading the book.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Beliefs vs. Facts and Knowledge

February 6, 2013

According to Rebecca Costa, civilizations collapse when beliefs do not keep up with facts and knowledge.1 Of course, the facts and knowledge must be accurate. Facts and knowledge change and grow. The rate of growth of facts and knowledge has become exponential, so it is quite difficult for beliefs to keep up. Moreover, we grow comfortable in our beliefs and are reluctant to change them. So the deadlock and stagnation many of us are experiencing is not surprising. Nevertheless, to achieve the ends of both a healthy memory and an advancing civilization it is important, to the extent possible, to try to keep our beliefs in correspondence with ever changing and developing facts and knowledge. We have to be like the great economist, John Maynard Keynes who said, when the facts change, I change my mind.

In science, tentative beliefs, called hypothesis, are tested by looking for facts and by designing experiments to determine the correct facts. The facts and knowledge in science are never certain and continually growing. Indeed, if there is no means of falsifying a belief, then it is not science. New facts lead to new knowledge and new beliefs. New knowledge identifies new problems that need to be addressed. Before the advent of science, beliefs changed slowly as facts and knowledge accumulated slowly. However, since the advent of science, finding new facts and knowledge has increased at an exponential rate. Unfortunately, beliefs are falling further and further behind .

For example, free markets are extolled. Although, there is no doubt regarding the benefits of free enterprise, the notion of a free market is an ideal. Free markets do not remain free in the real world. There are eight centuries of data proving this point.2 Markets are manipulated and monopolies are formed. Most of the world came close to a financial collapse due to ill behaving markets that were insufficiently regulated. Although it is true that regulation can be stifling if done improperly, it is almost a certainty that if they are unregulated, serious problems develop. Given the limited corrections that were implemented as a result of the previous market crisis, there is no reason to be confident that there is not a market collapse in the future.

Another example is global warming. There seems to be a scientific consensus that global warming is a serious problem. Now science is never certain. Facts and knowledge can be change. But the ramifications of global warming should not be ignored and considerations need to be given to how global warming could be mitigated or eliminated. Even in the unlikely event that the predictions of global warming are wrong, we would have erred on the side of caution. But it is easier to cling to the belief that there is no global warming, as it avoids the inconvenience and costs of taking action. Our situation is analogous to the Mayans who failed to deal with their conditions of drought.

Evolution is another belief widely held in the scientific community. Nevertheless, there are people who disagree with evolution and do not want it taught in the schools. They offer an alternative theory, creationism. It should be understood that a belief in God does not preclude one from believing in evolution. Nevertheless, some religious people do find the concept of evolution uncomfortable. Frankly, I think both creationism and evolution should be taught together in school because it provides an ideal means of explaining how science works. The first question to ask a creationist is whether creationism can be proven false, and if so, how. If it cannot be proven false, then it is not science. An evolutionist should also admit that evolution could be proven false. The evolutionist certainly can explain how the theory of evolution has been changing over the years, but the fundamental premise remains. I find it ironic that one of the proofs, a teleological proof, for the existence of God is the human eye. But when you examine the eye, it appears that the retina is designed backward. Before light hits the cones and rods it first goes through the neurological wiring from the eye to the brain. Although it is true that there are many beauties in nature, there are also many uglies. And there are millions and millions, perhaps billions of extinct species that did not survive. It was the humorist and sports maven Tony Kornheiser, I believe, who remarked, after he had experienced vomiting and diarrhea at the same time, what a perverse sense of humor God had when he designed the human body! One of the primary deficiencies we humans have is that we look for confirmations of our beliefs, but fail to look for disproofs of our beliefs.

1Costa, R.D. (2010).The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse. Philadelphia: Vanguard Press.

2Reinhart, C.H. & Rogoff (2009). This Time is Different. Princeton University Press.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How Much Information Is There and What Does It Mean?

September 27, 2012

A recent article by Martin Hilbert was published in the Big Data Special Issue of the publication Significance: statistics making sense titled “How Much Information Is There in the Information Society”? Hilbert together with his collaborator Priscila Lopez tackled the task of estimating the world’s technological capacity to store, communicate, and compute information over the period from 1986 to 2007/2012. The complete collection of these studies can be accessed free of charge at

In 1949 the father of information theory, Claude E. Shannon, estimated that the largest information stockpile he could think of was the Library of Congress with about 12,500 megabytes (106). The current estimate for the amount of storage for the Library of Congress has grown to a terabyte 1012. During the two decades of their study the amount of information quadrupled from 432 exabytes (1018) to 1.9 zetabytes (1021). For our personal and business computation we are familiar with gigabytes (109). Next are terabytes (1012), then petabytes (1015), the aforementioned exabytes, and zetabytes. Yottabytes (1024) await us in the future.

Although these are measures of information in the technical sense, I prefer to think of them as data. I think of information in technical transactive memory as data. When it is perceived by a human it becomes information. When it is further processed into the human information processing system, it becomes knowledge. Suppose we all disappeared and the machines kept remembering and processing. What would that be? Perhaps sometime in the future machines will become intelligent enough to function on their own. There is a movie, Colossus: the Forbin Project in which intelligent machines take over the world because they have concluded that humans are not intelligent enough to govern. Then there is Ray Kurzwiel‘s concept of the Singularity, when humans and technology become one. However, coming back to reality, I think there would just be machines storing and processing information absent true knowledge. We need to use technology to help us cope with all these data and fortunately according to Hilbert computation is grown at a faster rate than storage.

Hilbert makes some interesting comparisons between technical processing and storage of information and biological processing and storage of information. In 2007, the DNA of the 60 trillion cells of one single human body would have stored more information than all of our technological devices together. He notes that in both cases information is highly redundant. One hundred human brains can roughly execute as many nerve pulses as our general purpose computers can execute instructions per second. Hilbert asks the question why we currently spend 3.5 trillion dollars per year on our information and communication technology but less than $50 dollars per year on the education of many children in Africa? I think what he is proposing is that we not lose sight of human potential. Although our brains and DNA have phenomenal processing and storage capacities, we only have access to a very small percentage of this information in our conscious awareness. The healthymemory blog makes a distinction among potential transactive memory, available transactive memory, and accessible transactive memory. Potential transactive memory is all the information about which Hilbert writes as well as information held by our fellow humans. Available transactive memory is that information we are able to find. And accessible transactive memory is that information we are able to access readily. The goal is that this accessible transactive memory grows into knowledge, understanding, and insight, as it is in these final stages where its true value is realized.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.