Friday, April 22, 2016


If I had a lot of money I’d create a new website. It would be similar to Wikipedia, but instead of descriptive text it would only contain cold, hard facts. Explicit relationships between specific things relative to time.

Structurally, the underlying encoding would be some formulaic knowledge based representation of the relationships, thus avoiding any vague or misrepresented information. Just facts, pure and simple.

It should be noted however that what we often think of facts are not necessarily ‘universally’ true. That is, even the most concrete facts are relative to a specific context. For example, we know that the sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. That will remain true for our lifetimes, but there will eventually come a time when the sun ages enough that engulfs the planet turning it into a molten cloud (or something equally as unappealing). Truth with respect to time is a tricky thing.

What is also true is that much of what we think are facts, are actually just opinions. Humans can’t grasp the full context of our existence, so we over-simplify relative to our own perspectives. In that way, informality creeps into the underlying representation. Any given fact is believed true by only a subset of our population, and there are many different subsets all with their own variety of beliefs. What is a fact to one person is guaranteed to be a falsehood to another. Only the purest of abstract mathematics is immune to this property.

To account for this, the underlying representation would contain everything that anyone would consider factual. It would, of course, also have some metric to show how popular one version is over the other, but it would allow for the encoding of all ‘alternate’ truths, theories or perspectives.

Each fact would also have an associated list of links back into the Internet, and an associated list of publications back into meatspace. These references would be there to backup the justification for preserving the relationship.

The point of collecting this huge, rather complex and highly interlinked data would be too allow us to get a sense of what we collectively know. It would also allow us to navigate through the relationships, as they are all deeply interconnected, and enhance or confirm our individual perspectives. We could use this knowledge to better understand reality, to make better decisions.

Of course this data would be massive. Eventually it would encompass everything we know, think we know or even guessed at. It would have every major and minor idea from our history. Somewhere it would list the world as being a sphere, but would also list out the flat earth concept (with the obvious metric that almost nobody believes it anymore). It would list out every political theory and every known historical interpretation. It would list everything, without bias and without fear of it being misinterpreted. Just the facts we think we know, drawn from billions of opinions, spanning the globe.

It would take a lot of money to create such a thing, and it would take considerable experimentation and research to find a suitably expressive knowledge representation, but if even a portion of it ever got created it would open up our ability to really see the world around us in all of its beautiful interconnectivity and complexity. It would enable us to become more realistic about what we collectively know, and how we often make decisions based on limited context. That, and it would be quite enjoyable to build...