‘The Sum Total of All Human Knowledge’ series

Part I: Finding our place in space and time
For most of the run of the Master of Strategic Foresight at Swinburne we used to say—to new students starting in the first unit—that Futures Studies begins with ‘the sum total of all human knowledge’, before it then asks, whether implicitly or explicitly: “now what?” It would therefore seem to make sense, then, to have some way of organising the sum total of all human knowledge into some sort of more-or-less coherent schema, in order that one might begin to get to grips with what is, after all, merely the starting point of the vast multidisciplinary field of Futures Studies.
Part II: Scoping the territory
In the previous post in this series, we saw how the astronomer Carl Sagan outlined the process of “15 billion years of Cosmic Evolution” in the final episode of the TV series Cosmos (1980). He referred to our “tracing that long path” by which the “star stuff” of which we are made eventually arose to consciousness here on the Planet Earth, and how we have now begun “contemplating the stars” and to “wonder about our origins”. Elsewhere—indeed, in the opening segment of the very first episode of Cosmos—he observed that “we are a way for the Cosmos to know itself”. And it is to that Cosmos and our quest to make sense of and organise our knowledge about it, that we now turn.
Part III: Finding a schema
The quest to find a systematic knowledge organising schema—roughly aligned with the Cosmic Evolution timeline or Big History through-line—arose from the idea to go ‘full Zettelkasten’ on the many hundreds of notes I’ve accumulated over the years that are scattered about in various notebooks, electronic and physical, and scraps of paper filed in manilla folders languishing in various filing cabinet drawers. This is not only a useful and fun way to exercise one’s mind to try to keep it active, but is also a quite interesting exploratory research project to see just how far this wonderfully preposterous idea can be pushed. And it might even be of use to anyone else looking to use the Zettelkasten method for organising their research notes along the general lines being described in this series.
Part IV: Refining the schema
In the previous post in this series, we had arrived at the possibility of utilising a rigorous alphanumerical schema for indexing human knowledge based upon the temporal sequencing of the time-line of Cosmic Evolution and the through-line of Big History. This sequence was originally considered (Part I) as the most natural way to index knowledge disciplines, as it is both intuitively powerful (Part II), and based on the quasi-objective observable parameter of rising complexity over the course of cosmic time. Here we shall start to flesh out and fill in that indexing with an actual numerical scheme, based upon the final choice (Part III) of a combination of the Outline of Knowledge (OoK) from Encyclopedia Britannica, and the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC).
Part V: Extending the schema
In this post we continue the process of refining the knowledge indexing schema based upon the Outline of Knowledge and the Universal Decimal Classification, by now adding new categories to the framework through both combination and extension. This will bring the schema into a workable quasi-final form ready to be implemented.
Part VI: Implementing the schema (pending)
In this post, we look more closely at how to implement the combined and refined OoK+UDC schema using physical note-cards. These will include both the standard note-bearing cards (zettels), as well as ancillary ‘structure’ cards which are used to organise and ‘situate’ the note-bearing cards within the overall knowledge structure defined by the OoK+UDC schema.
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