1.  Introduction
2.  Exchanging Information
3.  Engendering Trust
4.  Decoding Incomprehensible Messages
5.  The Possibility of Being Well-Understood
6.  The Fly in the Ointment
7.  If Carl Sagan Can Do It, So Can I
8.  Where is Rod Serling When We Need Him?

Knowledge Representation

Barry Kort

1.  Introduction

This essay broaches the problem of modeling the human thought process, including the general method of solving arbitrary problems (the "algorithm of common sense"). If such a model could be constructed, it could be used to improve the efficiency with which one thinks, feels, and communicates. It might be possible to use the model to derive the laws of human interaction, and to construct a code of conduct for someone who wishes to be a caring person. In that case, it would be possible to find the most appropriate choice of behavior toward an arbitrary individual, based on one’s knowledge about the other person, as revealed by their actions, speech, and body language.

2.  Exchanging Information

In each interaction between two or more people, there is an exchange of unreliable information, which when sorted out and pieced together, provides the recipient with two kinds of knowledge. First is knowledge of the real world, which is to say knowledge of the existence of things, and the relationships among them. The relationships may be purely associative (A and B go together, A---B), implicative (A causes B, A-->B), or tightly bound (A if and only if B, A<->B). The association may be weak (A and B are not always seen together) or strong (A===B), and the arrow of causality may vary in intensity from 0 (probably no causal relationship) to 1 (virtual certainty that the relationship holds all the time). Repetition over long periods of time distinguish the signal (reliable information or knowledge) from the noise (an unfamiliar observation). That is, the brain comes to know things by using the method of statistical signal detection. The second kind of knowledge is the probability that the information received from the given individual is reliable and beneficial (i.e. trust). This may be represented by the strength of the bond between the two individuals (weak, P---Q, or strong, P===Q). (Here the strength of the relationship may vary continuously from −1 (extreme repulsion and mistrust) through zero (neutral) to +1 (maximum love and trust)). As one tests the reliability of the information imparted from the other against his own knowledge, he gains trust if he finds agreement, loses trust if he finds chaos or sabotage (information organized in a self-consistent yet misleading way).

3.  Engendering Trust

It seems to me that if one takes as a goal the mutual growth of two parties, there is one precise response that one can choose for each exchange such that both parties benefit equally. Lack of precise knowledge of the other person’s feelings prevents us from knowing exactly what to do. Near the optimum there may be a range of responses in which both parties gain new knowledge from the other. Beyond that range, the transaction is such that one may gain while the other’s knowledge base becomes more confused. Finally, in the situation where there is a breakdown in communication, each party might be inflicting net damage on the other. Thus if one can sense the other’s feelings, one can choose to respond in a way calculated to be mutually beneficial, thereby engendering trust.

Each transmittal of information involves action (the sequence of words or other body motions associated with emission of the message) and the unseen but implied cause of the action (i.e. feelings, intentions, and chosen behavior). Upon receipt of the message, the mind reacts and emits a reply (which could be words conveying thoughts or emotions, or other body language). That is, a communication is a sequence of intertwined feedback messages in which each party has a chance to guide the other. This interchange can be made perfectly efficient if each statement is a logical and honest statement about one’s feelings. As long as it is understood that every statement is at one and the same time a logical and honest statement about one’s feelings and a statement of one’s feelings about the truth value of what is being said, one can take every statement as a true statement about the other person’s mental model of reality.

4.  Decoding Incomprehensible Messages

Since many people are unaware of the laws of logic, deduction, and inferential reasoning, their statements cannot be completely understood, except by altering our perception of their understanding of reality. To avoid this problem, one can communicate in a format which is completely understandable, merely by making clear that every sentence expresses your own feeling about the truth value of what you assert. That is why "perfect" behavior follows the laws of human relations, Robert’s Rules of Order, etiquette, courtly manners, logical thought, etc. When two people behave this way toward each other, they might, for example, guide their conversation to a topic where one party is most interested in knowing something and the other is most confident in his knowledge about it. Then, if the knowledgeable person can transfer his knowledge one link at time, speaking the language of logical thought, he can transfer each piece of the jigsaw puzzle of knowledge one piece (or a few pieces) at a time, at a rate which is comfortable for the listener, meaning the listener can follow the logic and buy it without question. The meaning of every message is simply, "I have put all these pieces together like this, and here is how it came out." When the pieces fit together logically (the associations make sense and the arrows of causality are shown), the recipient has confidence that every thing he heard is good information. He can install a copy of your section of the jigsaw puzzle. Similarly, two people knowledgeable on the same subject can inspect the differences in each other’s map, and simultaneously debug each other’s mental maps.

5.  The Possibility of Being Well-Understood

Conversely, if one person can speak with perfect logic, he can communicate in a manner that helps the other person sort out his jumble of information and clean up the flaws in his logic until both parties are in perfect agreement. If an unsolved problem remains, it now becomes clear what new pieces of information have to be obtained from the outside world before one can proceed. In every case, one can discover that there is some yet untried method remaining to be tested or there is some piece of external knowledge which must be sought. In theory, it is possible to solve every problem imaginable, and for problems between people, there always exists an optimal solution in which each party gains an equal amount of comfort, ease, satisfaction, and happiness. It is the unexchanged knowledge of the other party’s true feelings that blocks the progress. If that knowledge can be exchanged one bit at a time, with perfect confidence, two adversaries can climb the ladder together, one rung at a time, each gaining +1 at every step, and waltz themselves to the win-win solution.

6.  The Fly in the Ointment

A major flaw in the concept appears to be the enescapable fact that some people do not wish to discover the existence of gaps and flaws in their mental maps of the external world. In this case, one must revert to subtler forms of communication based on learning through observation of role models and vicarious experiences associated with stories, plays and movies. In other words, many people do not wish to be observed during the learning process, because they do not want to reveal their lack of knowledge. (Such a strategy has survival value in a world populated with opportunists.)

7.  If Carl Sagan Can Do It, So Can I

Nevertheless, if it were possible to popularize the ideas suggested above and communicate them with persuasive logic, then perhaps more people could gain an appreciation of why the ideas have merit and how to use them. If one can practice the method with willing participants then it might become possible to develop sufficient skill to apply it to the larger population.

8.  Where is Rod Serling When We Need Him?

Could it be that starting with such a mental model of how humans think and feel, and taking as a goal mutual growth and happiness, one can derive (perhaps even in one’s head) all the following theories which could then be demonstrated through Socratic dramatization:


Theory of Information. What it is, how to organize it, when to seek more, and how to use it to determine the best course of action to solve a problem of high importance.


Theory of Communication. What it is that we communicate, how we interpret what it means, how we can format our communication for maximum efficiency, and how we can determine what to communicate and when and to whom.


Theory of Ideas. What is an idea, where do they come from, and how do we use them to solve novel problems.


Theory of Knowledge and Knowledge Representation. What is the difference between information and knowledge, the role of causality in knowledge representation, how knowledge representation relates to the Theory of Logical Thought. The fractal nature of knowledge and ideas.


Theory of Logical Thought. How one traverses the map of Universal Knowledge, following the associations from cause to effect, to discover new ideas, and test them with logic, inferential and deductive reasoning, and analogy.


Theoretical Foundations of Robert’s Rules of Order. What is the analogy between Parliamentary Procedure and shared-channel protocols in multi-point data communications (e.g. Ethernet, Token Passing, and Polling protocols.)


Theory of Diplomatic Protocols. How can adversaries who do not trust each other communicate reliable and believable information that would enable them to build a climate of trust and cooperation for their mutual betterment.


Theory of Feelings. What are feelings, what do they mean, how do we use knowledge of our feelings to guide our choices when logic fails us, how feelings are an index into an individual’s physical, emotional, and mental growth, how to determine another person’s feelings and use that information wisely for mutual benefit.


Theory of Etiquette and Courtly Manners. How to behave in a courtly manner and why it is attractive. How to calculate the correct behavior with regard to social etiquette.


Theory of Caring. How to determine the best course of action if you wish to be a caring person. How to sort out wants and needs and discover needs that a child or adult is unable to name. How and when to give a reward to maximally motivate growth and instill a sense of well-being, trust, devotion and love.


Theory of Correct Behavior. How to calculate the most correct and mutually profitable behavior toward any individual.


Theory of Problem Solving. How to solve an arbitrary problem systematically. How to determine when one lacks external knowledge required to obtain a better solution.


Theory of Justice and Equity. What is an equitable solution to a dispute, and what is the mediation process by which it can be found?


The Analogy Between People and Computers. What is the analogy between human feelings and what a computer does and doesn’t want from the outside world at any moment. What is the analogy between human thought and the calculus of computational logic. What is the analogy between human-human communication, human-computer communication, and computer-computer communication. What is the analogy between such things as impolite remarks, nasty comments, and emotional outbursts and diagnostic messages from a computer, including violations of an implicit communication protocol. What is the analogy between self-learning and self-programming computers. What is the analogy between self-awareness and a computer that is able to tell you what it is doing when it is doing it and why it is doing it.


Discovering One’s Own Ignorance. Using information about feelings and life experiences to deduce the missing piece of external knowledge that is preventing a person from achieving personal growth and self awareness. How to show that a person’s misbehavior and bad feelings are a logical consequence of one or more missing pieces of knowledge from the outside world. How lack of awareness of a causal relationship between successive events coupled with lack of awareness of one’s own behavior causes a breakdown in human relationships, especially between spouses.


Theory of Common Sense. What is common sense? Can portions of common sense be shown as a computational algorithm? Does common sense follow a pattern that carries over by analogy to everything we choose to say, do, think, or learn?


Theory of Universal Harmony. The idea that a state of universal harmony can be shown to exist, and that there is a simple way to use all the information available to you to guide yourself and others ever closer to it.