Monday, November 19, 2012

Defining Education

My son is trying to define "education" over at his blog. I agree with Mike that "education" is a "process," but a practicing metaphysician can't resist this opportunity to dig into the epistemological substructure of "knowledge." Let's start with the physical basis of thought.

The human brain is a "neural network" which can be thought of as a hyperdimensional phase space. Since each brain has about one hundred billion neurons, there is a one-hundred-billion-dimensional "space" for each. I visualize that as a very folded, twisty space--a hundred billion dimensional labyrinth. In a purely metaphorical sense, one can visualize the "intelligence" of this neural network as the volume of the space. One can increase the volume by making new connections, converting a twisty tunnel in the labyrinth into a chamber in a cavern.

Another way to increase the volume of the labyrinth is to connect it up to other labyrinths. That's the reason I start my study of knowledge with physical brains and neural networks--the network isn't trapped within one human skull. Two human beings form a single neural network with two hundred billion neurons. Ten humans have a trillion nodes. Our planet currently has half a sextillion living human neurons that are increasingly connected to each other.

And we're not just limited to living human neurons. The "synapse" from one human brain to another is language. That means that a library of books captures trillions more of the best and brightest neurons humanity has to offer. Opening these books and connecting them up to living minds turns the  twisty little labyrinths into vaulted chambers where many tunnels intersect.

There's much more to education than books, of course--but not enough time to get into it now.