The Future of Learning and Search

It has been five years now. Five years since we started Emvico and embarked on a journey aimed at changing the world. Sound like a big enough challenge and ego? Or as a naive and idiotic statement and goal? It might just prove to be just that but then not because the (latent) need and potential is not there, or that it is not technically feasible if given the right time and path. I will set out to describe the above vision and potential as well as steps taken and left to take to get there. But it will take some time and therefore I will just take one thing at the time.

Let´s start with a question: Do You think that reading text is the final and last step of how we/humans achieve knowledge? Do you believe that search engines – with its core criteria for usage that the user must know what she is searching for to be able to find it – is the way we will always search the web?

I believe the first step to open up to and understand the potency of our vision is to realize that there IS something else beyond the information and knowledge services horizon. Of course there is something else, and better, than accumulating knowledge by reading texts. Of course there is something else than search engines for finding information. Note: I am not saying either of these – reading or search engines – are bad. They work – of course!:) But, that does not mean they will not be replaced – or more likely supplemented – by something else. And this “else” is what we are striving to achieve.

We will start with the core: The difference between information and data and its application on text as carrier of knowledge versus our vision.

Text is not data. It is latent data of course – using Natural Language Processing – but the web is made up of text – supplemented with links – and as a base notion, the only way to make use of such text is reading it myself. A “computer” cannot make use of it, it cannot be used in other ways that being copied, and it holds no intelligent part or relation to other texts – only possible links. But imagine the power of “pictures”. Imagine the difference between an organization structure being described as text vs in an organization diagram. Imagine trying to describe geography and where countries/cities etc are located by using text (and town B lies twelve miles east of town A, which is 100 miles south of town C and …). So, why could we now use this for general knowledge? We believe we can!

At the center of the knowledge of mankind lies of course “nouns”, people, places, events, and things. Think of Wikipedia subjects – those subjects we can talk about as “knowledge objects”. All those objects are related somehow; connected directly or indirectly, close or further apart. In this “web” (we will call it graph henceforth), lies the possibility to provide an overview, a context, and ultimately a tool for humans to “see”, interact with, explore, reflect upon, and … understand … thus gain knowledge. For the avoidance of doubt, I am not talking about a static “picture”, which must contain the same factual visual description as a map or organization diagram, but a dynamic graph, possible to interact with and which will respond with your every move, unveiling its inherent information as You explore it. And in this exploration, through this interaction, you are gaining knowledge at a rate and sustainable efficiency higher than when you are a passive receiver of knowledge (such as in a traditional classroom or when reading text).

In 1945, Vannevar Bush, wrote:

“[The human mind] operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts…”

Our vision is to capture the knowledge of mankind as data, using knowledge objects and dynamic relations between them, and providing this to users to interact with, enabling their “minds” to see and create associations, forming and understanding as she explores the graph. And meanwhile she does this, we can provide more detailed content – such as web pages and videos … the user being supplied with f i a constant stream of web pages relevant to the whole context of the users exploration.

The power of visual understanding and knowledge exploration is great. Omnizens is the vision of making every global “citizen” omnipotent. We today have more than double the number of topics of Wikipedia and billions of relations. But more importantly, we have the data model and tools to spur our vision and start building a user experience to test how the future of learning and search could look like. I will talk more about our journey in upcoming “blogs”.

And I know, this was a long text …:)