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A new approach to knowledge

To understand the nature of our initiative, think about the world at the twilight of the Middle Ages and the dawn of the Renaissance. Recall the devastating religious wars, terrifying epidemics... Imagine the educated class discussing scholastic questions. "How many angels can dance on a needle point?" Bring to mind the iconic image of Galilei in house prison, a century after Copernicus, whispering eppur si muove into his beard.

Observe that the problems of this epoch were not resolved by focusing on those problems, but by a slow and steady development of a whole new approach to knowledge. Several centuries of unprecedented progress followed. Could a similar advent be in store for us today?

Our discovery

"If I have seen further," Isaac Newton famously declared, "it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." What motivates our initiative is a discovery. We did not discover that the best ideas of our best minds were drowning in an ocean of glut. Vannevar Bush, a giant, saw that more than a half-century ago, and he urged the scientists to focus on this disturbing trend and find a remedy. But needless to say, this too drowned in the ocean of glut.

What we did find out, when we began to develop and apply knowledge federation as a remedial praxis, was that now just as in Newton's time, the insights of giants add up to a whole new approach to knowledge. And that this new approach to knowledge, just as the case was then, naturally leads to sweeping changes in the ways in which the core issues (the creation of truth and meaning, democracy and power, technological innovation, the pursuit of happiness or wellbeing, religion..) are understood and handled.

Our proposal

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality", Buckminster Fuller observed. "To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” So we built knowledge federation as a model or a prototype of a new way to work with knowledge. Knowledge federation is both a way of handling knowledge, or technically a paradigm, and an academic institution that develops it as a praxis (informed practice), or technically a transdiscipline.

The issue that is being proactively problematized on these pages is the way we handle a most precious resource – human creativity (or insight, ingenuity, capacity to envision and induce change...) and its fruits accumulated through the ages. And at the point in our history where we may need to depend on it more than we ever did! Considering the importance of this issue, we spared no effort in developing and describing a complete proof of concept; and setting the stage for its academic and real-life deployment and scaling.

By constructing this model, we do not aim to give conclusive answers. Our goal is indeed much higher – it is to open up a creative frontier where the way knowledge is created and used is brought into focus, and continuously recreated and improved.

Introducing knowledge federation

Knowledge federation is just knowledge creation

As our logo might suggest, the purpose of knowledge federation is to 'connect the dots' – combine disparate pieces of information and other knowledge resources into higher-order units of meaning. The meaning we assign to this keyword is similar as in political and instuitutional federation, where smaller entities unite to achieve a shared purpose, such as greater visibility and impact.

One might say that what we are calling knowledge federation is just what we normally do with information to turn it into knowledge. You may have an idea in mind – but can you say that you really know it, before you have checked if it's consistent with your other ideas? And with the ideas of others? And even then – can you say that your idea is known before other people have integrated it with their ideas?

Science too federates knowledge; citations and peer reviews are there to secure that. But science does that in an idiosyncratic way – by describing the mechanisms of nature, and explaining the phenomena as their consequences.

Why are we developing an initiative around such an everyday human activity?

A natural approach to knowledge

What we have undertaken to put in place is what one might call the natural way to federate knowledge. Think on the one side of all the knowledge we own – in academic articles and also broader; include the heritage of the world traditions, and the insights being produced by creative people daily. Think on the other side of all the questions we need to have answered. Think about the insights that could inform our lives, the rules of thumb that could direct our action. You may imagine that these latter ones occupy distinct levels of generality or abstraction. Then you may imagine knowledge federation as whatever we the people may need to do to maintain, organize, update – and keep up to date – the core elements of this hierarchy. Put simply, knowledge federation is the creation and use of the kind of knowledge we the people need – in order to understand the world around us; and in order to be able to live and act in it in a suitable, functional or "good" way.

Introducing systemic innovation

An informed way to be creative

While we shall be illustrating knowledge federation by a broad variety of direction-setting insights and principles, there will also be a single general and overarching insight, which may be perceived as the mother of them all. We will be pointing to this most basic insight by several of our keywords, and also directly by calling it systemic innovation.

It stands to reason that the very existence of global issues suggests that something is amiss with the way in which we've been using our characteristically human, and now so rapidly growing capability – to create and induce change. And that if an error with so sweeping consequences cold be detected and corrected, then also the benefits, the positive consequences of such a course of development cold be equally sweeping. Under systemic innovation as a brand name, we are developing insights and projects that will make this possibility palpable and real.

Knowledge federation and systemic innovation

Knowledge federation and systemic innovation are so close in meaning, that at the high level of generality where we are now they may well be considered synonymous. When we do knowledge federation right, when we "stand on the shoulders of giants", then systemic innovation is seen as just an informed or effective or safe or (as Erich Jantsch wrote, from whom we've adopted this keyword) rational way to be creative. And when systemic innovation is applied to our work with knowledge and information, the knowledge federation is the result.

Like the Yin and the Yang in Oriental cosmologies, knowledge federation and systemic innovation are two alternative principles and ways of working that continuously recreate one another.


Federation through Images

Our ideas of what constitutes "good" information have been evolving since antiquity, and they now find their foremost expression in science and philosophy. The developments in 20th century's science and philosophy brought us to the brink of a disruptive change. In Federation through Images we show how the insights of last century's giants empower a whole new standard of excellence – where the explicit purpose is to inform. We show how new methods and processes, and new ways to collaborate, most naturally follow.

We render the gist of our initiative, as well as core insights of leading thinkers, as metaphorical and often paradoxical images called ideograms. The result is a cartoon-like introduction to the philosophical underpinnings of a refreshingly novel approach to knowledge.

Federation through Stories

In Federation through Stories our focus is on another disruptive change that invites similar changes in the way knowledge is created and handled – the change of information technology. Perhaps you'll consider this... XXX TBA XXX on innovation, and specifically on the way information technology has been and specifically information-tecwe trace the historical roots of a development analogous to Industrial Revolution – of a way to radically increase the effectiveness of human work.

We use vignettes – short, lively, catchy, sticky... real-life people and situation stories – to explain and empower some of the core ideas of daring thinkers. A vignette liberates an insight from the language of a discipline and enables a non-expert to 'step into the shoes' of a leading thinker and 'look through his eye glasses'. By combining vignettes into threads, and by weaving threads into patterns and patterns into gestalts, we create a hierarchy of insights that can inform the handling of core practical issues including lifestyle, values, religion, innovation and governance.

Federation through Applications

In Federation through Applications we present a complete prototype of an emerging academic and societal paradigm, rendered as a portfolio of prototypes.

Federation through Conversations

In Federation through Conversations we focus on a development analogous to the Humanism and the Renaissance – of new views and values that can bring our societal and cultural evolution into sync with our technological one. By positing unconventional views on issues that matter, we ignite public dialogs. And by developing those dialogs, we evolve a collective mind capable of weaving threads of thought into surprising conclusions.