Visualizing the “shoulders”

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We are “standing on the shoulders of giants” who, in turn, were leveraging the work of those who have gone before. And if their incremental contributions are put into atomic, tweet-length sentences, we can visualize these relationships in various ways, most impressively as done by Deniz Cem Önduygu in his History of Philosophy.

Incidentally, Ton Zijlstra mentioned the shoulders, and Chris Aldrich noticed the atomicity (zettelkasten structure) of Önduygu’s philosophy presentation, just when I was trying to assemble the philosophers who influenced my own thinking.

Kindly, Stephen Downes released some short versions of his core ideas:

Downes says

“Cognition is based in similarity, and network semantics are similarity-based semantics.

Learning is to practice and reflect, and it is essentially the same as association mechanisms of machine learning: Hebbian and Boltzmann, respectively, plus back propagation.

A new theory of human learning ought to be informed by ‘learning theory’ in machine learning (connectionist artificial intelligences, today known as “deep learning”).

Neural and social networks are similar; successful ones may have a a Boltzmann-like mechanism that may be related to sensations of peacefulness, and the learning of ethics.

Not all connections are of equal strength in the neural metaphor of Connectivism.

Relevance and salience are based on context-dependence and a network of similarities.

Knowledge is having dispositions, based on recognition, i.e. being organized in such a way as to respond in an appropriate way to a partial pattern.

What we know about the world is irreducibly interpretive; our thoughts about objects are not representations of the external world, they are not inferred from experience.”

Of course, the reduced listing of these sentences does hardly do justice to their full power. But imagine the rich connections of disagreement, contrast, refutation, and agreement, similarity, expansion, to previous sentences by other giants, and how much work this involved! (Again, the links seem more interesting than the isolated nodes, as I learned from Connectivism.) Unfortunately, having no philosophical training, I am not able to identify most of these connections except a few most obvious ones.

But I created some new functions in my tool to make it technically easier to add such links and format them as the arcs in Önduygu’s linear (chronological) representation, in addition to my own favorite 2D format (allowing topical gestalt), if you want to link the above sentences, or your own ones, to all the relevant predecessors, and display them in one of two interactive visualizations.

Screenshot of a linear, chronological presentation of philosophical statements, with connections as green and red arcs
Screenshot of a zoomed-out 2D representation of the same connections as in the above image
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