The unity of knowledge

Consilience refers to the puddling-together of all knowledge, breaking down silos and disciplinary divides to arrive at universal truths and principles. It’s about the interrelatedness of everything. The term was coined in 1840, according to our good friends at Wikipedia, who go on to say,

Modern views understand that each branch of knowledge studies a subset of reality that depends on factors studied in other branches. Atomic physics underlies the workings of chemistry, which studies emergent properties that in turn are the basis of biology. Psychology can no longer be separated from the study of properties emergent from the interaction of neurons and synapses. Sociology, economics, and anthropology are each, in turn, studies of properties emergent from the interaction of countless individual humans. Their limits have constrained history.

The term was dusted off in 1998 by Edward Osborne Wilson’s book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge “as an attempt to bridge the culture gap between the sciences and humanities.” I stumbled across it in my aforementioned poking-around in transhumanism and singularitarianism, which would posit consilience as not only a good thing but indeed a moral imperative.

Rather high-falutin symphonic stuff, but strains of the same tune underlie Reassembler. (I’m just plunking at it with a banjo. Or a kazoo.) It’s the interconnections and congruencies binding us and our world together that fascinate me.

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5 thoughts on “The unity of knowledge

  1. Try reading “The Disorder of Things” (Dupres) for an interesting deep dive into the difficulty of creating one body of knowledge for the purpose of a “unified science”. A “unified science” will have a high-bar w.r.t. coherent language/taxonomies, etc. so the “operators” (science, deduction) can be applied uniformly.

    He recommends giving up, and live with the intersecting bubbles of science.

  2. Sounds like a good tip – thanks. Curiously they didn’t have it at the Hudson News kiosk @ the airport :) You see small-scale examples of the same phenomenon in companies’ efforts at consolidating applications and databases. Even within a relatively small universe like that, creating acceptable standards and a language (ie set of definitions) that works for all involved parties in a huge pain in the tuckus. (To borrow from Bloom County.)

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