THE KNOWLEDGE NET

By Gregory Mitchell

About sixty years ago educators came to the conclusion that rote learning was not a very efficient way of instructing a student. Rote learning was phased out and replaced with the modern method of instruction. Since the middle ages until about 1945, education was near synonymous with rote learning. Students may have gained something from the modern liberal approach, if they are fortunate to have excellent teachers, but all too often they have also lost something important, because the modern methods usually do not include adequate means for clarifying and memorizing information - all too often it is half understood and (post the exam) almost immediately forgotten.

Many of our parents went through the earlier strict type of education. As adults, they were able to quote verbatim from the Iliad, American and British Literature, History, Geography and General Science. This gave them in many cases a certain charisma; they could speak and write with impact and most importantly, they had a sense of certainty in a troubled and changing world. Later generations, to a significant extent, have lost this sense of certainty, achieved through having a wide and well-connected structure of knowledge.

Memory & Identity
Global structures of meaning play a primary role in the cognitive processes behind discourse. Furthermore, without a large body of secure data, individuals frequently have identity problems. Long term memory content therefore plays a crucial role in creating our identity. In short, without the capital of stable data standing behind us, in everything we are and do, we have a shaky sense of our identity and very little certainty.

According to Hunter in his classic book on memory, people with a poor long term memory are very easily socially conditioned. In modern terms, they are field-dependent and other-directed. To be Self Directed one needs a strong sense of identity, and memory is a crucial factor in this. We need to remember our beliefs and values; our methods for doing many tasks and learned solutions; our likes and dislikes; who we know and what we think of them; our personal history; and our learning of all subjects including our career skills. So a person's entire knowledge net is largely the structure of their character.

All memory is important, especially long term memory, and the most important part of long term memory is our knowledge net. Our knowledge net starts to expand from shortly after birth and in ideal cases continues to expand until shortly before death. An evolved knowledge net is a context in which all new information can be compared and evaluated, and hence valued and understood. Wisdom and charisma, through insight and certainty, result.

A minimal knowledge net results in a person who is like reeds in the wind, swaying in whatever directions the influences upon him dictate. Without our knowledge net, we would be like a goldfish; we would be nothing. Almost every facet of personality and consciousness stems from our knowledge net. Our character, the capacity to keep our head in a sea of troubles, the capacity to express ourselves and understand language, our identity and the well springs of Ego itself, stem from the knowledge net.

Most systems of brainwashing work at trying to break down this structure, so a person loses sight of who he is. A person with a poorly formed knowledge net, with only a limited content, has a weak Ego. He lacks presence and charisma. This may call to mind the type of school teacher who tries to give a lecture whilst he faces toward the blackboard. People with a limited data base are often full of opinions but unfounded ones, because they lack stable and well-connected data. An extreme example is that of a famous idiot savant who was taken to see a play. He was able to count the number of words spoken but the play went straight over his head. Without a significant and relevant data base he was unable to relate to the content of the play.

Self-Directed Education
Before Malcolm X went into prison he was street-wise and a natural leader. However, as he began to write letters to a wide variety of people, he became frustrated with the fact that he could not communicate with them as he wanted to. "It was because of these letters that I happened to stumble upon, that I started to acquire some kind of homemade education." He was frustrated because he had been the most articulate hustler on the streets of Harlem, and could get anyone's attention with his words. He was not used to being ignored but now it was hard for him to communicate.

It was equally hard for him to keep up with events because he could never fully understand what he was reading. So he decided that he needed to learn how to read and write properly and that the best way to go about it would be to get a hold of a copy of a dictionary and study it. He decided that the best place to start would be at the beginning, with the A's. So he just started copying. He copied every word and punctuation mark on the first page. It took him the entire day, and when he finished he read aloud what he had written, over and over again. The next day he woke up thinking about the words that he had written and to his surprise, he even remembered what some of them meant. As his word-base broadened he was able to pick up a book and read it all the way through.

He went on to spend all of his free time reading, and acquired a much wider knowledge base. As he later said, "I had never been so truly free in my life." As a result he also became an articulate writer and was able to obtain a much greater world-wide influence, even from within prison, as a result of his own writing.

By the mid-twentieth century, scientific and technological knowledge far outstripped the ability of most people, even the moderately well informed, to comprehend it. The aim of most specialists is to know ever more about their own specific niche. However the corollary to a small minority knowing more and more about less and less, is a large majority knowing less and less about more and more. It becomes overwhelming to the average person and even the specialist may know little about his own colleagues' work. To turn this around we need an ongoing self-directed education, not attempting to know everything but to understand very clearly the basic principles of a wide range of subjects, so that the detailed information can be placed in a reasonable context.

It is only in the context of a wide knowledge net that intelligent and creative connections may be made between disparate information, and so we have the challenge of developing an encyclopedic knowledge that covers enough bases with sufficient depth, to be able to make sense of new information and to perceive the opportunities that arise thereby. The immense and ever-growing resources of literature and the Internet are only valuable to the degree that their data can be related to the knowledge net that already exists within our own minds.

The human brain has immense capacity for interconnectedness, far more than any supercomputer. It's pattern recognition capability enables us to perceive the connections between ideas, people and events - all the contents of our knowledge net - and to be able to know what is relevant and important in any particular context. That process, however, depends on our ability to remember.

Knowledge Itself Promotes Memory
Significant evidence demonstrates a superior memory in those experts and individuals who know a great deal about a specific domain of knowledge. Memory for a certain type of material improves with practice, such as with naturally reoccurring situations. To take a simple example, the amount of knowledge of soccer was found to be a powerful determinant of subjects' recall of newly presented scores for recent soccer matches. This can be attributed to improved organizational processing with a wider and more detailed context, and also to better recognition of the similarities and differences between the items in question.

Mnemonics
Through the use of mnemonics technology (devices for assisting the memory), in conjunction with a couple or three years of part-time study, we can gain the sort of data base enjoyed by our forefathers, in an expanded and modern context, and along with it a greater sense of certainty and a greater security in our identity.

The key is the use of visual images in an ordered, spatial arrangement that relate to the abstract ideas and enable us to remember them. Human memory recalls concrete images far more easily than abstract ideas, especially images with an emotional endowment, and it remembers an ordered chain of associations more accurately than a random assortment. By the use of mnemonics - using chains of association to connect one memory with another - new information is encoded in such a way that it is connected to previously stored data, such that it is not easily forgotten.

The wider the existing knowledge net, the easier it is to find such useful connections, so the process is cumulative and accelerating. However, modern mnemonics technology works so much better than the old ways of rote memorization, that even a little experience with these techniques can make a startling difference. One is on the way to acquiring a greater state of memory. The knowledge net is effectively a crystallized intelligence that acts as an expansive resource for the fluid intelligence of one's working memory.

Creative Memory Course
In most civilized societies the development of language centers in the left hemisphere of the brain will produce dominance on that side, while spatial, visual and intuitive problem-solving skills, which are based on right-hemisphere relational processes, will be underdeveloped.

Though a highly developed memory and intuitive skills are not essential for life in modern society, they were important survival skills for primitive man who had no reference books to look up when he forgot something, no maps to guide him on long journeys, and was often in perilous situations where intuitive insight made the difference between life and death. To further evolve, we need to reclaim this heritage, which depends on the restoration and integration of our right-brain processes.

Without memory there is no knowledge, without knowledge there is no certainty and without certainty there is no will. We need a good memory to be able to orient ourselves in a rich network of all that we know and understand, to make sense of it and to move forward to attain goals that are based in reality and true to our selves.

You will learn advanced memory techniques in the Creative Memory Course that utilize the amazing powers of the right brain, which enable you to "file away" any new piece of information so that it is readily accessible for future immediate access.

As you continue to use the methods of cumulative perception taught in this course, this kind of random access memory begins to become second nature. Many memory experts call this the "soft breakthrough" because it happens almost imperceptibly at first, instead of hitting you like a mental bolt of lightning. Everything you find important is given its own unique mental file. Just like the executive whose desk has been buried in paper for years, who suddenly discovers his computer can do a much better job of storing and arranging information, a filed, organized mind suddenly begins to perform impressive recall tasks on demand.