By Yonatan Gordon
The IPO of Knowledge
While typical internet searches are static, passive or dimensionless, Google’s new search dubbed “The Knowledge Graph” seeks to take us into a 3D virtual reality of concepts.
Just two days prior to Facebook’s IPO, Google announced their own debut: The Knowledge Graph. From the press release published to announce this new search option, we can glean some of the inner motivations at play:
“The dream has always been to understand things like you and I do, so this this really feels like a sea change … Time is the only quantity that we can’t make more of. When people save time, people search more. The Web gets more traffic and all boats rise.”
The astute reader will realize something profound: Google has just cited the search for knowledge as a watershed event which causes boats to rise. If this sounds remarkably similar to the well-known prophecy from Isaiah, you are probably right.1
So then our deeper question about this Knowledge Graph is how does mapping out knowledge raise the water level of our proverbial sea?
The original root of the word Kabbalah (קַבָּלָה ) in Hebrew means to “parallel.”2 That is, our first diving board into the mysteries of the world comes by pairing things together. The whole purpose of our study of Kabbalah is to see unity within plurality. From the many twos we begin to understand the great One latent within ourselves and all of creation.
Just as the ocean bed is concealed from view, the job of any good search function is to make visible those elements of reality that lie deep beneath the surface. If we are to dive deep into the depths of the ocean, our equipment must be well suited for the occasion.
“The next frontier in search is to understand real-world things and the relationships among them. So we’re building a Knowledge Graph: a huge collection of the people, places and things in the world and how they’re connected to one another.”
Connecting the Dots
Imagine for a moment that our search is really a search for pearls hidden in the ocean bed. If we were to uncover the place and position of each one of these pearls, this pearl cartography would then become our guide for a great treasure hunt.
What does it mean to connect things? What change is being affected? As we will see, appreciating the position of something transforms our dimensionless “point” searches to dynamic three-dimensional “area” searches.
“Finding the Right Thing”
Google defines this as the first stage of a Knowledge Graph search. We will call this a static, passive or “dimensionless” search because our intent here is merely to identify our object of interest. It is still not clear whether we will succeed in uncovering treasures, but the signposts are at least being charted out.
“Get the Best Summary”
Google’s next stage of the Knowledge Graph relates to what Kabbalah calls a linear progression. Once the search has begun, the possibility of attaining the goal becomes line-like. The line represents a vector-force of energy being invested in a lunge-like movement forward. At this level, one’s search is still at best a summary of “key facts about your search with the most useful and interesting information for that particular topic.” Namely a collection of “points” along the “dotted line.” This type of search is very unstable and still removed from the greater landscape of exploration.
“Go Deeper and Broader”
This third stage of the search experience is what we call “area consciousness.” In Google’s words: “Make unexpected discoveries and explore a topic more deeply with a springboard of information at your fingertips. What you find may surprise you!”
The progression from point to line to area reflects a fundamental shift in consciousness. Only from an “area” state can we see the bigger picture and begin to sense some flexibility and comfort within our searches. Instead of darting from one concept to the next, mapping out interrelationships allows for a “deeper and broader” understanding–along with the stability needed to start settling the waters of our curiosity.
The most vulnerable part of our search is when we transition from line to area consciousness. When our explorations about “people, places and things” become a catalyst for an entire mapping of world experience. Most critical is the moment of transition from our summarized line-like searches to a gestalt model. That is the deeper reason why Google speaks at length about the time-saving aspects of the Knowledge Graph. If we are to discover the world faster and more richly, our transition from a bunch of “people, places and things” to a unified worldview needs to be carried out with great alacrity.
Without a doubt the secret to moving from line-like to area searches is earnestness and thanksgiving, the internal and external aspects of the sefirah of sefirah of acknowledgment (hod). In order to smoothly make the shift to area consciousness, a person has to simply and sincerely accept that God is leading him to his goal. The safehaven of our search experience comes when the energy we have invested in moving forward matches up with our greater ambitions. The Knowledge Graph represents our ability to solve our problems in new and positive ways. The ability to dream and aim toward higher expectations in an effort to illuminate our lives. It is then that our wayfaring “boats” begin to “rise”.
Meditating on search as a treasure hunt is also important to making the transition from line to area consciousness. The image of a world laden with riches facilitates our goal of perceiving reality as one filled with Divine consciousness and goodness. Google’s shift from “people, places and objects” to the concepts underlying these things, is an attempt to uncover the great spiritual riches hidden within the natural world. Just beyond the surface, there is a infinite reservoir of knowledge to be gained by abstracting physical things into concepts.
For instance, if a person searches Knowledge Graph for “liberty,” they are traversing through a sea of sentiments about this concept. Maybe the Liberty Bell is the the greatest symbol of this term, or perhaps Paul Revere and his midnight run to Lexington? We are drawn like magnets to concepts, not things, because that’s what our soul most desires to uncover. While a business works hard to market concepts, our job as searchers is to realize that no one object owns a concept. Liberty is much more than any bell or person, just like bottled water doesn’t own the trademark on pure.
Efficacious mapping occurs once concepts are freed from their tacit association with physical things. Until that point, the world appears as a summary of opaque, distinct physical objects. The transparency of abstraction allows us to focus on the conceptual congruences that connect the “people, places, and things” in the world. The Gold Rush of today is when we view each concept as a pear or nugget waiting to be sifted through and discovered in our grand search for unity and one complete treasure map of discovery.
1“For the world will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the ocean bed.” (Isaiah 11:9).
2 “The original root of the word Kabbalah (קַבָּלָה ) in Hebrew means “parallel” from the phrase “the loops shall be parallel to one another.” When connected, these two sets of 50 loops formed one roof of the Tabernacle.
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